|To Err is Human, To Forgive Is, Well, Hard.
Author: kaydi PM
What if Sirius had been freed, by the discovery of Peter by the Weasly’s, before Harry’s first year. The release of Sirius Black, his recovery and his sudden and unexpected crash course in parenthood.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Angst - Sirius B. & Harry P. - Words: 22,882 - Reviews: 164 - Favs: 175 - Follows: 28 - Published: 02-05-02 - id: 588236
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
To err is human. To forgive is, well, hard.
This is a simple little what-if story I've been working on. What if Sirius had been freed, by the discovery of Peter by the Weasly's, before Harry's first year.
Just to let you know, several parts are very similar to the book, and I did want them that way. some parts, like the wand shop, are just too good to let go of.
I hope to see a bit more reviews than I have been lately. Has anyone else noticed the lack of reviews, or do people just not like me anymore * grins*
Well, I have a much easier semester, so expect more of my stuff. Oh and I have decided not to put out the new version of mnisb, until my friend, SaraBeth finishes My name is Remus Lupin, which she's working on, they both look to be very good. Thanks for your time, now go read and don't forget to review!
The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.
To err is human. To forgive is divine. I don't know who said that, someone famous probably, but it's true. Everyone makes mistakes. If you don't, you aren't human, and you are prefect. Well, no one is prefect. I learned that a long time ago.
But then most people's mistakes didn't do what mine did to me. They didn't cost their best friend's their lives, their careers, homes, families; they don't end up in Azkaban because of them. They don't suffer metal breakdowns, or run away from all that reminds them of what they lost.
And they don't throw their remaining friends to the dogs, when they need you the most. They don't condemn them to guilt, when in their hearts they know it can't be true.
That is my sin, my guilt, and my mistake. I did all that and more. It makes me ten times guiltier than Sirius ever was. But for almost ten years, I thought him no more than a madman, my best friend turned spy, who cared less for his friend's lives than his own skin. He was the man who murdered my best friends. That is, until I got an owl from a certain Arthur Weasley.
The day was cold, colder than was usual for a December day, Molly Weasley thought. She glanced out her kitchen window to the front yard where all seven of her children were currently running around.
Bill and Charlie, the eldest and already out of Hogwarts, were seated on the steps chatting animatedly about something. Next in line, Percy, in his fourth year and home from Hogwarts for the Christmas holidays, was sitting at the picnic table, pouring over some schoolbook, and trying desperately to ignore his brothers. Fred and George, in their second year, were chasing Ron, the youngest boy. Ron was trying to keep them away from his new pet rat, Scabbers. The rat had once been Percy's, but he had received an owl from his parents this summer, and he had given his old pet to Ron, congratulating him in his first year at Hogwarts the following year. Ginny, the youngest and only girl was watching from a tree where she's escaped to when Fred chased her with a snake a few minutes before.
"Fred, you leave your brother alone!" she shouted.
"Yes, mum!" he replied and proceeded to ignore her. Ron protected the rat faithfully. True, Scabbers was just a rat, old, and missing a toe, but Ron loved him.
"Hey Ron, can I see Scabbers?" George asked. Ron shook his head.
"Of come on. We're not going to hurt him." Fred said.
"No, you'll just turn him into a spider like you did my teddy bear when I was three." The twins laughed.
"Well, you shouldn't have stolen my broom." Fred told him. "Now can I see Scabbers?"
"Look, Ron! A spider!" George shouted.
"Where?" Ron turned around, in fear. Then Fred grabbed the rat. They took off, Ron on their heels. Suddenly Fred tripped and Scabbers went flying out of his grip. Ron grabbed the nearest wand and pointed it at his flying rat. A long band of gold light shot from the wand and hit Scabbers as he was zooming through the air. For a second, nothing happened, Scabbers was frozen in midair, twisting. Then there was a pop and the rat was gone. Instead, a short, balding, pudgy man stood there.
Everything was frozen for a moment as the kids stared at him and he at them. Then he turned to run. Bill and Charlie, sensing something was wrong because your brother's rats don't simply turn into bald men on a daily basis, attacked him, holding him down.
As they held him, he ceased to struggle and began to sob. Molly hurried outside.
To her surprise, the man was someone she knew. He had been a few years below her in school. But most shocking of all, he was supposed to be dead.
Arthur Weasley hurried home, wondering what could have caused his wife to send such a frantic owl. He found his family seated in the kitchen watching a man sitting in a chair, softly crying. He too, recognized the weeping man.
"I did it. It was me." Peter whimpered.
"Did what?" Mr. Weasly asked.
"Lily and James. It wasn't Padfoot. He'd never betray them. I did it." Molly and Arthur glanced at each other.
"Call Dumbledore." Molly said.
When Albus Dumbledore received the letter from a frantic Arthur Weasly, the last thing on his mind was the Marauders. He had learned long ago that thinking of James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew only caused more heartache than was necessary and so he often pushed thoughts of them to the side.
No, in fact he was thinking about how good a sherbet lemon would taste at that moment, when he was attacked by Errol, the Weasley's owl, who knocked a large stack of papers to the floor.
But when he opened the letter, he sat up in shock. A million things floated though his mind, the first, "If Peter's alive, then Sirius didn't do it." The second, "What have we done?"
In a flash, he was gone.
He reappeared in the Weasley's kitchen to find the scene unchanged. Only the look Molly was giving Peter was nothing short of disgusted. The children were giving him similar looks, while Arthur was pacing.
"Dumbledore, thank god." He motioned to Peter who had stopped crying and was sitting quietly.
"Hello Peter." He turned and looked at Dumbledore, his eyes still red. He quickly turned away from the gaze of his former headmaster.
"What's this I hear?" he asked. Peter took a deep breath.
"I did it, Professor. Sirius is innocent."
"You killed the muggles?"
"And betrayed Lily and James." Peter added. Dumbledore took a deep breath. He knew Sirius would never turn. Then he turned to Arthur.
"Arthur, I want you to contact Remus Lupin. Remus was in Wales the last I heard, an owl would reach him." Then he turned. "Peter, come with me." Peter hesitated, but unwilling to bear the icy glare of Molly Weasley, he followed Dumbledore.
Cornelius Fudge dropped his cloak on the desk, then collapsed into his chair. He hated those visits to Azkaban, all those prisoners, screaming their bloody heads off, he wondered how a body was supposed to survive in there. And he didn't even want to get started on the dementors. Bloody fiends, they were. He shivered. At least it was only once a year.
Suddenly a frantic aide rushed in, announcing Albus Dumbledore was here to see him. Fudge groaned inwardly, and made sure he was presentable before telling the aide to show him in.
Dumbledore entered, with a portly rat like man trailing him. Fudge resisted the urge to groan again. He knew that look. There was a glint in the old Professor's eyes that spoke of a purpose. This wasn't some routine visit.
"Ah Headmaster, how are you?" he asked pleasantly, standing at the headmaster strode into the room.
"We have something to important to discuss." He answered, ignoring the pleasantries, and taking the seat offered to him. "You will forgive me if I do not commence with the pleasantries, but a very important piece of information has just come to my attention."
"Really? And what is that?" Fudge asked, sitting down himself.
"The matter of Sirius Black."
Fudge stared in shock at Dumbledore. He'd thought Black a closed subject with the old wizard. The madman was locked away in Azkaban where he belonged. Fudge had even passed his cell that very day. He'd peered through the bars, but Black was curled up in a corner, apparently fast asleep. The guards said he hadn't screamed in a long time, years. He just sat there, lost in his own world, not speaking, moving only to reach his food. he did not live. He simply existed.
"Black? What about him?"
"Minister, may I introduce you to Peter Pettigrew." Fudge stared in shock at the balding man, standing next to Dumbledore.
"No, no that's not right." Fudge shook his head, "Pettigrew died ten years ago when he cornered Black in the square and Black blew him to pieces along with the rest of the street. I don't know what you're trying to pull, Dumbledore, but that can't be Pettigrew."
"Tell him, Peter. Tell him what you told me." Dumbledore told the man.
Peter, his head on his chest, began to speak, slowly. When he'd finished, Fudge stared at him with a mix of horror and disgust.
"Dear God, I can't believe it!"
Unlike the others, Sirius was very much on the mind of one, Remus Lupin that December night. Little Harry's tenth Christmas was drawing nearer, and for the tenth year in a row, Remus knew James and Lily would not be there. His thoughts fought between anger at Sirius for what he'd done and that nagging little voice in the back of his head, Remy-in-my-head, Sirius called it. He smiled a bit at the memory.
"You know that little voice in the back of your head that tells you when it's a good time to quit?" James asked, glaring at his best friend. "You don't have one."
"Yes, I do." Sirius insisted, grinning. "I call it Remy-in-my-head."
" And why am I in your head?" the sixteen year old real Remy who was very much not in his friend's head, asked. Sirius rolled his eyes.
"Because, Moony, you're always telling me what to do, and so does that little voice." He informed his friend.
"And you never listen to either one." James spoke up. Sirius grinned and took the opportunity to chase him around the room. Remus grinned and joined in the fun.
But Remus was yanked off of Memory Lane when the owl began to tap impatiently at his window.
The voice was screaming now as he took the letter. Remus wasn't sure just what it was saying but he took the letter and opened it, ignoring the chills running up and down his spine.
And when he dropped the letter, all doubt concerning Sirius's innocence was erased forever.
He arrived just in time to see Dumbledore entering the door to his right. Ministry agents were rushing here and there, shouting franticly and hurriedly. It had changed little from his days on the OOP.
Dumbledore looked much the same as well, still the same cheery old headmaster who had offered him a sanctuary at school, not once, but twice. He smiled, his eyes twinkling.
"Hello Remus. It is good to see you."
"And you, headmaster." He nodded in return. Dumbledore glanced at the doorway in from of them.
"I assume you've heard the news?" Remus nodded.
"Is it true? Is Peter alive?"
"Not only alive, but with a very interesting story to tell." Remus took a deep breath as Dumbledore motioned to the door in front of them. Remus forced himself to take the first step, and after that, it seemed he was moving on autopilot. He had no wish to enter that cold office where his old friend was no doubt waiting. But he did so.
As he entered the minister's office, the first thing he saw was Peter, two armed aurors on both sides, seated in from of the desk.
"Peter?" he whispered. He felt his knees grow weak. Peter winced at the sound of his voice and turned away. Fudge rose and held out a hand to greet Remus and Dumbledore.
"Glad you could be here Mr. Lupin. We were hoping you could help us with a few details." Remus nodded, glancing at Peter as he took the seat offered by the minister. Dumbledore sat beside him, between him and Peter, which was probably the safer plan. Remus wasn't sure what to do; either hug Peter to strangle him.
"It seems there has been a grave misunderstanding." Fudge began. Remus gazed at him.
"A misunderstanding? An innocent man is in Azkaban, and you say it's a misunderstanding?"
"Mr. Lupin, you have to admit, not even you believed Black. I was at the trial, I saw." Remus closed his eyes, trying to block the sound of Sirius's pleading, his echoing, hysterical voice that rebounded through Remus's head every day. "Moony, please! I didn't do it! I'm innocent! Remy! Believe me! Please! I'm innocent!" He winced as he recalled his own harsh response that had sent Sirius into tears, begging, pleading with him to only listen, to only understand.
Remus nodded and Fudge continued.
"The ministry has decided, though I am not entirely in favor of this, that under the new evidence presented by Mr. Pettigrew here, that Black couldn't have possibly had anything to do with the deaths of Lily and James Potter." Remus nodded. Peter swallowed. Remus wondered just how guilty Peter truly felt. His emotions were too confused, his brain too bombarded with different sights and sounds, to make sense of anything.
"Therefore, if he is innocent, he has no reason to be in Azkaban. We are releasing him." Fudge explained. Remus stared at him. Did he hear right? Releasing Sirius?
Fudge glanced at Remus and Dumbledore.
"We need someone to go with our men, to take Black. There's no telling what shape he might be in. He might respond better to an familiar face."
That's right, Remus thought. Azkaban was supposed to drive you mad within months. Sirius had been there ten years. Would he even be sane when he came out? They had always joked that Sirius was crazy, would end up in Azkaban, but they never thought all this would happen. And now Remus found out that not only was his best friend innocent, the friend he'd thought a hero was a traitor, the friend he'd though betrayed them had in fact been his most loyal ally, and now that friend, right when he was about to get him back, could be insane.
"Mr. Lupin, did you hear me?" Remus shook his head. He glanced up, jerked out of his thoughts.
"I asked if you would like to accompany the aurors to pick up Black." Fudge asked. Remus frowned. Go to Azkaban? Could he do it? Could he last? But if he were even alive, what shape would Sirius be? He might react better if there was a familiar face there. No matter what state he was in, Remus was sure Sirius would recognize him.
Slowly, so very slowly, he nodded. Dumbledore placed a hand on his shoulder. He smiled comfortingly, as Fudge wrote out the order. Remus leaned forward, then caught Peter's eye for the first time. He frowned and looked at his old friend. There was nothing of the somewhat clumsy but goodhearted boy Remus had known so well. Now something of the rat lingered in Peter's small watery eyes, something that threw off his wolf instincts and made Remus feel uneasy.
"Here." Fudge handed Remus a sheet of parchment. "We'll contact you when the trail date is set." Remus nodded, then stood. He glanced at Peter once more, and then turn on his heel and left.
The ferryman was not very happy when Remus told him his destination, but he took him there when Remus showed him the order and a flash of gold. Remus shivered and pulled his cloak closer around himself, trying in vain to block out the cold Northern wind. He eyed the slowly growing island with a mix of fear and exhilaration. In only an hour or so, he'd be back on this boat, but with Sirius.
He smiled. Sirius. His best friend, his innocent friend. He was not alone anymore.
"How long are you going to be?" the ferryman asked. Remus shrugged.
"I'm not sure."
"Well, I leave with the tide. If you're not here when the tide goes out, you're staying." Remus frowned. He guessed he had about two hours. Enough time to get Sirius. He climbed off the boat and stepped onto the path leading up to the giant towering fortress.
He shivered as soon as his foot touched the ground. This island was hell. If hell ever did freeze over, he thought, wishing he'd brought a thicker clock for Sirius, this would be the place. The two aurors that were with him walked on either side, looking quite uncomfortable. Remus didn't blame them in the slightest. He had a bad feeling about this place.
The human guards at the gate let them in. After all, they had papers. The head warden met them. He was a rough looking man Remus would never want to meet anywhere and never ever make mad. He was large and had not bathed recently, giving off an odd odor Remus had to resist wrinkling his nose at. The warden glanced over their papers.
"Black? Alright. This way." he motioned for them to follow, and Remus got the idea this was not a man to mess with.
The warden led them through maze after maze of twisting passageways and long corridors, all lined with cells. In some there were prisoners screaming, attacking the bars as they passed by. In others, the prisoners sat in a corner alone, muttering to themselves. Remus's bad feeling was steadily growing into dread. The dementors were stationed at the ends of every corridor, guarding the entrance and the exit. Remus shivered violently as he passed them, fighting back haunting strands of a voices, shouting, and growling the dementors always brought with them.
Then they turned into a passageway with no cells. It seemed to be sloping upward. It opened up into another corridor lined with fewer cells, each with a dementor outside the door. The screaming was worse here.
Remus froze as he picked out one voice from the mangled shouts coming from the cells and turned to the one immediately on his left. The warden motioned the dementor away and Remus looked through the bars.
"No! God, no, James! Believe me! Moony, please! Please, I didn't! Not me, Peter!" Sirius's voice echoed painfully in Remus's mind, and it was a few moments before he could force himself to open his eyes and look inside.
A man was laying on what looked like a pallet, tossing and turning. Sirius. He shouted out in a wordless cry, and then resumed his pleading, "Moony! Please, listen! Please! Moony!"
Remus turned to the guard. " Open the door."
"Look here, sir," the warden began, " he's a convicted murderer. He's dangerous."
"He's innocent. And he will never hurt me. Now open it." Remus ordered. There was a harsh note in his voice, almost a growl.
"Moony, don't leave me!" The warden was not a stupid man and recognized the warning signs. He quickly unlocked the door and Remus was inside and kneeling beside the thrashing figure in a heartbeat.
He grabbed the flailing arms and pinned them to the man's sides. Sirius struggled and whimpered in Remus's grasp, lost in the throes of his nightmare.
"Moony!" Sirius cried out, and then relaxed suddenly. Remus peered down and saw Sirius in the dim light. He opened his eyes. He stared at Remus as if he were some kind of apparition, or ghost, or worse.
'Hello Padfoot." Remus tried to act calm, even though his heart was racing. Sirius frowned.
"Moony?" Sirius's voice was hoarse; barely a whisper, and only Remus's acute hearing caught it at all.
"Yes, it's me. We found Peter. He's confessed to everything. You're free. I've come to take you home." Remus told him, waiting got see his reaction. Sirius said nothing, pulling away and wrapping his arms around his legs tightly, curling into a ball. Remus pried him apart.
"Sirius, we've come to take you home. Let's go." Sirius's eyes were closed tight shut.
"You have to understand sir," the warden said from the doorway, " these prisoners are mad. They don't know what's real and what's in their minds. He might think this is some dream. If he's really innocent, I bet you anything he's had this one before." Remus nodded, and then yanked Sirius to his feet. Sirius looked startled, but didn't protest. He followed Remus meekly, back through the maze of tunnels, wrapped in the clock Remus had brought for him.
As they boarded the boat, Sirius gazed at the island for a long time, and then he closed his eyes. Remus sighed.
"Siri? You're free. Do you understand me? You're free." Sirius opened his eyes and turned to face Remus. Slowly, he nodded.
"Moony." He said softly. Remus looked at him. Sirius shivered and pulled the cloak tighter, gazing out over the cold sea at the land in the distance.
Remus frowned. That one word was all Sirius had said. He wondered just what kind of condition Sirius really was in. He seemed to understand what was going on around him, but at the same time he was unresponsive. Remus sighed. This was going to be hard for both of them. He though perhaps it would be best if he took Sirius to his home and let him recover before they attempted to question him for Peter's trial.
As they neared the land, Remus noticed a large amount of people at the dock. He saw Sirius frown deeply. They seemed to be waiting for something. When they docked, he saw they were journalists, writers, that nosy cow, Rita Skeeter in the lead.
He growled. She'd pestered him for a solid month after Lily and James's death, wanting her readers to know what it was like to be the last of such a famous group of friends. He had a sudden instinct to protect Sirius from their molesting.
As they climbed off the boat, the press went crazy, pushing and shoving, trying to get close enough to ask a question.
"Mr. Lupin!" Rita Skeeter pushed her way to the front and stepped in his path. He sighed.
"Yes?" he asked, exasperated.
"Is it true that Sirius Black is innocent?" Remus glanced at Sirius and found him to be almost hiding behind his friend. The huge amount of people and noise seemed to be overwhelming for him.
"Yes it is." Remus said.
"And Mr. Black, what are your plans now?" she asked spotting Sirius. Sirius stared at her, his haunted hollow gaze turned full on her. She shifted uncomfortably, and then turned back to Remus. But he shook his head.
"We have to go. It's been a long day and Sirius needs to rest." He said, waving aside the rest of the press. He made his way through the crowd, Sirius behind him. The people parted like Moses in the Red Sea.
They climbed into a ministry car and it took off.
Once they were clear, Remus glanced at Sirius. Sirius's eyes were closed again and he was shaking violently.
"Sirius?" he asked, moving closer to his friend, " what's wrong?" Sirius's shoulders shook. But he said nothing. Remus pulled his friend into a hug. Sirius allowed himself to be held.
They arrived at the ministry quickly and they climbed out of the car. Sirius looked up at the building with almost no reaction. He was still shaking slightly. Remus took him and led him inside. He looked very out of place with his long hair, hanging in a matted mess and his filthy decade old robes. But he didn't seem to notice the stares he was receiving as Remus led him to the office.
Dumbledore, Peter, and Fudge were still there when they entered. Fudge and Dumbledore rose when they came in. Dumbledore offered his chair to Sirius who looked at it, and then his eyes fell on the occupant of the next chair. Remus watched as his eyes came alive for the first time. Sirius gave a snarl and launched himself at Peter. Peter tried to dive out of the way, but he moved too slowly. Sirius attacked him with ten years of anger. Remus had to dragged him away. Sirius's eyes were full of rage and hate as he struggled against Remus's grip. Peter jumped away from his former friend, nose broken and bloody and the beginnings of a black eye.
Sirius suddenly stopped struggling and his knees gave out. He slipped out of Remus's grasp and knelt on the floor. Remus glanced at Peter, then he felt Sirius grab hold of his robes and he knelt beside his friend. Sirius held on to him as a frightened child clings to their parent. Sirius had reverted back to the helpless state, his shoulders shaking once again.
"It's alright, it's alright. Shh, don't worry. It's alright." He whispered soothingly. Sirius whimpered slightly and only held tighter. Remus gave Dumbledore an imploring look. Dumbledore knelt by Sirius. He smiled reassuringly.
"Hello Sirius. Do you remember me?" Sirius nodded. Dumbledore motioned to the chair. " You don't have to worry. You'll not be going back to Azkaban. Not ever. You're safe now. We simply need you to answer a few questions. Then Remus will take you home and you'll be able to rest and recover. Does that sound alright?"
Dumbledore sounded like he was speaking to a small child, not a thirty-year-old man. The old Sirius would have been insulted by being addressed in that manner, but Sirius nodded and allowed himself to be placed in the chair with the assurance that Remus was right by his side and wasn't going anywhere.
"Now Mr. Black, do you admit you are innocent?" Fudge asked. Sirius nodded slowly. "And that Pettigrew here is the one who committed the crimes you were accused?" again a nod. "He was the Potters secret keeper." Nod. " And the one who said the curse that killed those muggles." Nod. Fudge sighed.
Remus could tell he was quickly losing his patience with the silent Sirius. To tell the truth, the silence was starting to bother him as well. There was a time when you couldn't shut Sirius up. He was the loud mouth hotheaded rebel. Now he looked about him in childlike wonder and fear, clutching at Remus like a child. Ten years in prison had reduced him to that. Remus felt rage boil inside him once more, and glared at Peter.
Peter had climbed back into his chair and was gazing at Sirius with a strange look in his eyes. As Sirius answered Fudge's questions with only a nod, Peter was gazing at him in an almost triumph. It was as if he was proud of himself that he had caused his once so proud friend to this overgrown child. Fury overtook Remus and now it was his turn to attack Peter.
He hit Peter once and only once, but it was enough to send him flying across the room. There were benefits to being a Dark Creature, he noted, and one of them was supernatural strength. Dumbledore and Fudge were up in an instant, but Sirius didn't move his gaze from the floor. Remus growled at Peter.
"Bet you're pleased now, Peter. You did what no one else could. You broke him! Proud of that, are you?" he glared at Peter, who whimpered. Then he felt a hand tug at his robes. He glanced down. Sirius gazed up at him with empty pale eyes that reflected the candlelight, making them seem far too bright.
"Moony." Sirius whispered. Remus's heart threatened to break again. Sirius's voice was weak and hoarse, like a child's.
Remus sighed. " Let's go home, Siri." Sirius nodded.
Fudge lit a fire and threw a pinch of floo powder in. They bid goodbye with the assurance that they would be hearing from them soon, and with the promise to Dumbledore to keep him up to date on Sirius's progress, then they stepped into the fire, and were swept home.
They reappeared in Remus's cottage. He sighed as he looked around. It was small, but clean and with a spare bedroom. There would be enough room for the two of them. Thank God, the full moon had been a week ago.
He smiled at Sirius. "Well, we're home." Sirius said nothing, but glanced around him in what had to be the most amount of interest he'd shown so far.
"First things first. A bath?" he asked. Sirius's eyes lit up and he nodded. " Then a hair cut, I think." Sirius nodded again.
Remus showed him the bathroom and handed him a towel. Then he turned to leave. But he glanced back. Sirius was gazing at the towel and bathtub as if he'd never seen anything like them. he sighed.
"Do you want me to stay?" Sirius nodded. Remus settled himself on the toilet, picking up a novel he'd been meaning to read. Sirius went about his business, savoring the clean water and soap.
When he was done and pulled on the bathrobe provided by his friend, Remus looked up.
He settled Sirius on a stool and glanced in the mirror.
It would be easier just to do a spell and restore Sirius's hair to its previous style. And so that's what he did. The elbow length matted tangle was now hanging just to Sirius's neck, the bangs in front falling in his eyes, giving him a shaggy canine look. All in all it was better than before.
Still the look wasn't the same. The man was too much changed. The body too thin, ribs sticking out painfully, eyes too empty and haunted, once famous Quiddich muscles were gone, victims of Azkaban as well. Sirius had once been in the best shape of them all. He'd had to be. During the war, Sirius had been an Unspeakable. He'd often vanish for several hours or days, and then return sometimes with bloodstains on his clothes, to the flat they'd shared in those first years before James and Sirius moved out to get married. He'd never say where he'd been and they soon learned not to ask.
He sighed, pushing the old memories aside. " Now what? You hungry?" he asked his friend. Sirius looked startled at the idea of food, then he licked his lips, his eyes bright. They went into the small kitchen and Sirius sat down at the table while Remus rummaged around looking for food.
"I don't have much. I got usually get much company around here. Maybe we should go shopping soon, what do you say?" Sirius shrugged.
Remus sighed as he found some leftover chicken and put it on a plate. He placed it in front of Sirius, and then turned around to fetch himself a glass of water. When he turned to face the table again, he was shocked to see the plate in front of Sirius was empty.
"God, did you eat all of that already?" Sirius nodded. " You must have been hungry." Sirius glanced up at him and his eyes froze. The look on his face was both shocking and anguished. Remus turned and found he was facing the spice shelf. On it, next to the rosemary and ginger, was a picture of Sirius and James fooling around with Lily's muggle camera in sixth year. Oh god, he thought. James.
He heard a whimper behind him and he faced Sirius. Sirius had his face hidden and was whining slightly, much like the big black dog he'd once been. Remus frowned, then knelt in front of his friend, peeling his hands away. Sirius refused to look at him until Remus spoke.
"Sirius, listen to me. You are free. You are innocent, you did not betray James and Lily, we all know it now, Peter is going to prison, and no one blames you. It's not your fault. You are free."
Sirius's eyes were bright and shining with unshed tears. The words seemed to have a small effect on him, though he knew Sirius had heard him. Sirius closed his eyes.
"Moony." He said, in the same hoarse child like voice. Remus sighed. Was that all he could say? Had Azkaban robbed him of all his words, but that?
"Do you want to sleep?" Remus asked, noticing the setting sun in the window behind his friend. Sirius nodded.
Remus led him to the spare bedroom where he quickly found fresh sheets for the bed and fixed it. Sirius pulled off the filthy robe and climbed in, curling into a tight ball. Remus smiled at him, and then leaned over to blow out the candle. Sirius looked up and shook his head.
"You want it burning?" Sirius nodded. Remus sighed, "Alright. I dare say you've had enough dark nights." Sirius nodded and closed his eyes. Remus took a step back and Sirius's eyes were open again. He reached out and grabbed a piece of Remus's robes. Remus frowned.
'Do you want me to stay until you fall asleep?" Sirius nodded franticly. "Alright. I'll stay, I promise. Now try and get some sleep, Padfoot." Sirius smiled at the old nickname.
"Moony." He mumbled, half asleep already. He closed his eyes and Remus pulled the blankets up around him, smiling gently.
"Good night Padfoot. Sweet dreams. You need them." He sat in the old rocking chair, watching his friend, long after Sirius's breathing slowed and he relaxed.
He should be happy, Sirius was free, and Padfoot was innocent. In a way he was, but he was still greatly troubled. Sirius's continual silence and use of one word, his name, was bothering Remus a great deal. He just hoped he could help his friend recover. It was simply a matter of time before Azkaban lost its hold on him. Remus sighed and got up, pausing as Sirius shifted in his sleep, frowning slightly and clutching at the sheets. But when he did nothing else, Remus left, going up to his own room, pulling off his robes and climbing into bed. It had been a long day.
He had hardly been asleep an hour when he heard a voice downstairs. Instantly he was out of bed and down the stairs. He ran into Sirius's room and was relieved to see he was still asleep.
But he was obviously not having sweet dreams. Sirius was tossing and turning, twisting the blankets and fighting some unknown or unseen attacker.
"No, please." He moaned, " Please don't. I didn't. Lily, James!" he screamed his old friend's name. Remus was by his side in a moment. He grabbed Sirius's arms and held him down.
"Sirius! Wake up!" Sirius moaned, then stopped struggling. He opened his eyes. His pale eyes were large and full of fear.
"It's alright. You're safe." Remus soothed him. Soon Sirius's shivering stopped and he slipped back into sleep. Remus sighed and pulled one of the discarded blankets over himself as he settled back into the rocking chair. He closed his eyes and was asleep in an instant.
" Hey Padfoot, guess what." Remus called, entering the sitting room. His smile faded when he saw Sirius.
Sirius was seated in his new favorite chair, knees pulled up and chin resting on them, gazing out the window with the same empty hollow expression he'd worn for three weeks since he'd been released. He had improved in appearance. He'd filled out some, though he was still thin. His pale skin was reverting back to its regular colour, tanning well. His hair was now back to it's former glory.
In school, if you touched Sirius's Black's hair, it was cause for slow and painful execution. Sirius never seemed to bother much with his hair, either leaving it hanging, or pulling it out of the way in a short ponytail, but it was always smooth, shining, and clean. He'd laugh at James's unruly locks for hours on end. But then, James always got revenge by mussing up Sirius's hair and then running away as fast as possible. His hair had always been his pride and joy. His school girlfriend, well, his first girlfriend, Sirius did have a bit of a reputation at school, Erin, had loved his hair and she was the only one he'd ever let play with it. Remus remembered when he'd first seen Sirius, he'd remarked about how Sirius's hair gave him a shaggy look and made him seem almost canine. It had helped, later on, first with Erin, then after her death in seventh year, with Sirius's other numerous girlfriends, that his longer hair gave him a rebellious look, spurred on by his motorbike, leather jacket, and overall rebellious nature. But, Remus thought sadly, that boy was gone. Forever.
His manner had not changed in those four weeks though. He still remained in the same child like state, though he was able to do things for himself, like get dressed or take a bath. He had a terrible fear of being left alone and hated the dark or the cold. Nightmares were common, though he didn't have them every night as he used to. Remus had devised a potion that let him sleep without the fear of dreams. It was spooned out nightly. Sirius still hadn't regained the power of speech. He was still uncharacteristically silent. He was able to communicate what he wanted through gestures, looks, and the few words he did use, like Moony, food, or sleep.
Dumbledore had been by to visit a few times, but Sirius had had little or no response to the new presence. The headmaster had extended an open invitation to the two friends to visit him anytime at Hogwarts.
"Perhaps a place with familiar memories will restore something in him." and Remus was determined to do just that. He took a deep breath and strode over to where Sirius was sitting. He knelt in front of the chair, smiling. Sirius didn't even look at him, but continued to stare out the window.
'Sirius, guess what?" he tried again. Slowly, Sirius turned to face him. Remus sighed. "Well, the full moon's coming up in a week and I though perhaps we could take a trip." He prayed for a reaction, any kind. " We're going to Hogwarts. Would you like that?" Sirius sighed and turned back to stare out the window. Remus closed his eyes and gritted his teeth. It was all he could do sometimes to keep from shaking Sirius for all he was worth, just knocking some of the old Padfoot back into him.
"Well, we're going. Tonight.. Do you need help packing or would you like to do it yourself?" Sirius shrugged. At least he was listening. Remus sighed. "Alright, I'll get some things together for you." Then he left.
As he pulled their bags down the stairs, he checked on his friend and saw to his disappointment, he hadn't moved.
"Come on, Sirius. We're leaving." Sirius' only response was to shiver. He closed his eyes and laid his head on his knees. Remus walked over to his friend and laid a hand on his shoulder. "It's time to go. Come on, this will be good for you. It's Hogwarts." He smiled. Sirius sighed and got up. He stood by while Remus lit the fire and threw the power in. he pulled Sirius in behind him and yelled, "Hogwarts!"
They spun faster and faster until they reappeared in Dumbledore's office. The headmaster was there to greet them, smiling.
"Remus, how are you?"
"I'm well, sir." Remus replied, shaking the offered hand.
"And how are you, Sirius?" Dumbledore asked. Sirius nodded his head, gazing around him. Remus was surprised to see a hint of the old light in his eyes. He moved to explore. Dumbledore smiled and let him open the cabinet with the pensive in it, trace his fingers along the desk, gaze out the window, stroke his pet phoenix, Fawkes, and do what he wanted.
"We decided to take you up on that offer, Professor. Besides…" he hesitated. Dumbledore nodded.
"Ah, the full moon is next week, is it not?" Remus nodded. " Well, perhaps I could have Severus prepare you a little something. You've heard of the Wolfsbane potion?" Remus shook his head, watching Sirius explore the office out of the corner of his eye. "It is a complex potion that allows a werewolf to keep his mind during the transformations, provided he takes it for one week before the full moon."
Remus smiled, his eyes wide. " Really? That's amazing!"
"It's a fairly new development, and a difficult potion to make, but I'm sure Severus could do it."
Now Remus would not put it past Severus Snape to slip a bit of poison in along with the potion. He was an old school rival from their days at Hogwarts. He'd hated James, Sirius and Remus with a passion and they were just as opposed to him.
"But for now, let's get you settled." Dumbledore showed them to a pair of guest rooms down the hall. " You know where everything is. Just ask the house elves if you need anything." Then he turned to leave. He paused at the doorway. " Oh yes, I almost forgot. Sirius, I have something for you." Sirius looked up from his examination of the window. Dumbledore took his hand and turned it so it faced palm up. Then he reached into his robes and placed something in Sirius's hand. Sirius's eyes widened and when Dumbledore moved back, Remus caught a glimpse of what it was.
A long stick though chipped in a few places, solid and good for defense, if he remembered correctly. Phoenix Feather, Redwood, 8 3/4 inches. Sirius's wand.
"The ministry saved it, locked it in storage. Fudge was reluctant, but I convinced him it would be of more use to you if you had it. He's still not completely convinced." Remus nodded. Sirius was too enchanted by the long lost wand to acknowledge Dumbledore.
"Thank you, Professor." Dumbledore smiled, then left them alone.
Remus turned to unpack. He glanced at Sirius. Sirius was staring at the wand in him hand, gripping the end tightly. Remus noticed something. There was a light in his eyes, a light Remus had not seen for more than ten years,
Sirius drew in a harsh breath. He couldn't sleep. Remus was next door, snoring away, but Sirius couldn't sleep. Sleep had not been an easy thing for him these past few months, but this place, this place was so strange and yet so familiar.
His mind was bombarded by memories. Things he'd forgotten so long ago were running through his mind. Every crack in the wall held a memory.
Remus seemed pleased with him at dinner, when he ate everything on his plate. True, the past month had been hard for both of them. Sirius was stuck inside this shell, trying to break free, but failing. He longed to slam against his bars and break through. He felt like his soul was crying out, screaming for help, for something that would let him fly. What was that saying? He mused, oh yes. I know why the caged bird sings. Well, his bird had given up singing and was now screeching for all he was worth. He was screaming inside, yet he couldn't say a word. He longed to tell Remus just how he felt, what was going through his mind, even to remember, or just to ask him simple questions, like a normal person. But the words wouldn't come.
He disliked being treated like a child, but knew that until he could come out of this shell that held him trapped, that was the way it was going to be. He hated being left alone, the dark, the cold, anything the reminded him of Azkaban. And Remus had been there, patient, kind, caring, when he was plagued by nightmares, when he froze up as he sometimes did, when he wouldn't talk, all the time.
Taking care of him was a full time job, he knew that. And Remus took it in stride. He knew the full moon was approaching fast, Remus was showing the signs, fatigue, dark circles under his eyes. He wondered just what would happen when the full moon did come around. He remembered hearing Dumbledore say something about a new potion that morning, but he'd been to intrigue by the familiar sights and sounds of his old headmasters office, he hadn't really listened.
He gave up on sleep and climbed out of bed. He knew Remus wouldn't like it if he got up, but he couldn't stay here, not now. He decided the best plan would be to go down to the kitchen, see if the house elves could get him something. He pulled his door open and slipped out.
He wandered the halls, nodding to the various portraits that were still awake. The Fat Lady who guarded Gryffindor tower smiled at him, and for one brief moment, Sirius wished he could climb in the hole to the common room that lay just behind here, climb the stairs to his old dorm room and sleep. But he moved on.
He avoided Peeves and Mrs. Norris, resisting the urge to give that mangy cat a truly deserved kick. He never did like her much. He wandered passed the library, and the charms room. He went all the way up to the astronomy tower, slipping back down when he saw a class, and found himself in the entrance to the Great Hall.
"Shh, quiet!" he spun around at the sound of the voice and ducked behind a shadow. He saw two figures, students, making their way down the stairs.
"You be quiet!"
"Why? There's no one here. The map says so." The map?
"Well, check again." The second voice insisted.
"Fine." There was a rustling of cloth, then a pause. "Uh oh."
"Look." The two students, two boys looked up to where Sirius was hiding. He moved closer, and watched them. they stared back.
"Who are you?" one of the boys asked. Sirius frowned. Was he seeing double? The boys were identical, right down to the freckles. With flaming red hair and stocky builds, they stood, the one boy shoving the piece of paper behind his back.
Sirius frowned and held out his hand. The boy sighed and handed him the parchment. Sirius flipped it up and stared.Messers Moony, Wormatil, Padfoot, and Prongs
Purveyors of Aids to Magical Mischief- MakersAre proud to present
THE MARAUDER'S MAP
Their map. These boys had their map? How? Filch had confiscated it seventh year. He frowned. If only he could get the words out.
"Er, we found it?" one boy asked. They shot each other grins. For some reason, Sirius was reminded of himself and James. He smiled and handed the map back to the boy.
"What? You're not going to take it?" he seemed surprised. Sirius shook his head and pressed it into the boy's hands. Then he turned and began to walk away.
'Hey wait!" he turned. The boys grinned at him. " What's your name?"
He tried again and found his voice seemed to be working. "Sirius," he said hoarsely, "Sirius Black." They grinned.
"Wanna come raid the kitchen with us?' Sirius grinned and nodded.
"I'm Fred Weasley." The first boy introduced himself.
"And I'm George, but you can call me Gred."
"And you can call me Forge." Sirius laughed.
It was the first time he'd laughed since that fateful day ten years ago. It felt good. God, but it felt good.
The next morning, he awoke feeling refreshed and rested for the first time in ages. He sighed and settled back on his bed and closed his eyes, thankful for the absence of the troublesome thoughts that so often filled his mind and made it impossible to come out of his shell. Perhaps this place was be good for him.
He heard the door open and Remus came in, whistling a bit. He had a change of clean robes for Sirius and he smiled when Sirius opened his eyes.
"Good morning. Sleep well?" Sirius nodded and gave him a smile. "Well, I'm planning on going down to the infirmary a bit later, then I'll be in my room for the night, and I'll go back in the morning. Don't try to come in tonight." He warned. " We still don't know how well this works, and I don't want you changing, alright?" He began unfolding the robes and placing them in the cupboard.
Sirius frowned. He'd forgotten. Tonight was the full moon. Remus was going to be in his room, out for the count tonight. Snape had made that potion. He wished he could have seen the look on his old enemy's face, but Remus had insisted Sirius get some rest, and that the cold dungeons would be too much for Sirius's already sensitive system.
Though he disliked admitting it, Sirius knew he was right. For some reason, his immune system wasn't what it used to be. He used to be the one who never got sick, no matter if the whole house was ill with the flu, Sirius Black would still be running around, dropping dungbombs in the girls bathrooms. Now he'd been ill with two colds, one bout of the flu, and one more serious case of pneumonia in the month he'd lived with Remus. He wondered if it had something to do with his stay in Azkaban, the extreme cold or the Dementors.
And what had Remus said? He didn't want him changing? He didn't want Padfoot there? Why not?
"Moony?" he called softly, wondering if his voice was loose enough to allow him to talk. Remus turned around, paying him full attention as he always did. Sirius sat up, wondering how to express his question.
"Tonight?" he asked, hoping it would be enough. He inclined his head towards himself, then to Remus. Remus sighed and shook his head.
"No, Sirius. Padfoot can't come. Not this time." Sirius bit his lip, a sure sign that he was worried, or bothering by something. Remus crossed the room and sat down beside Sirius. "It's not that I don't want you, Sirius." He said putting a comforting arm around Sirius's shoulder. " It's just that you're not strong enough. You know the change is hard enough to do when you're young and in full strength. You're just not up to it yet." Sirius frowned.
How could he explain to Remus that he was very well up to it? The only reason he was as sane as he was, was that he could change when things got too bad. Dementors had less effect on Padfoot, and it gave Sirius a much-needed break from it all. Should he change? Here, now? Show Remus he could do it? Sirius decided that was the best alternative. But Remus got up then.
"Hungry?" Sirius nodded. It could wait, he decided. Anything could wait when it came to food. "Alright." They made their way down to the kitchen. They'd been eating there to avoid the noise and crowds in the Great Hall.
Remus never ate much the day of the full moon. Sirius remembered that, but he still shoved Remus's plate toward him. Remus smiled at his friend, but assured him he was all right. After that he vanished to the infirmary and Sirius was left to wander the school.
That night Sirius listened until the growls next door had stopped. Then he got up. Frowning at the door, he made his decision and turned the knob.
The first thing he saw was the huge wolf curled up by the fire. The wolf lifted his head and stared at Sirius. He kicked the door shut and spell locked it. Sirius smiled and in a brief flash of light, he was gone. Instead, a large black dog with pale eyes approached the wolf. The wolf growled at him and Padfoot lowered himself to the ground, shuffling forward, ears back, tail down, until he was right in front of the wolf.
Moony growled at him as if chastising him, then gave him a soft nuzzle. Padfoot got to his feet and wagged his tail. Moony sniffed him and Padfoot nipped at his neck. Grinning, Moony joined the game, attacking Padfoot. The two rolled on the ground, playfully nipping at necks and fighting for dominance. The bigger wolf won.
After playing, the two canine friends settled down in front of the fire. Moony curled up close to Padfoot, and both longed for the extra warmth Prongs and Wormtail had provided. Padfoot whimpered, but Moony licked his muzzle and soon both were fast asleep.
The next morning, Padfoot awoke to Remus, still curled up next to him, head lying on his soft fur. He yawned and stretched. Remus opened his eyes and smiled at his friend. He sat up, yawning as he did so. Sirius took the opportunity to change back into Sirius. He grinned at his friend.
"Alright, alright, I was wrong." Remus admitted, seeing his friend's grin and raised eyebrow. " How did you know you wouldn't get stuck?" If he expected a shrug, he was in for a surprise. Sirius frowned and opened his mouth.
"Dunno. In Azkaban, I did it." Remus stared at him.
"What did you say?" Sirius looked just as surprised. It was as if the ropes that had been binding his tongue had slipped away and Sirius allowed himself a smile.
"In Azkaban, I changed. When things got too bad. They," he paused, "they don't effect dogs as bad. Easier to keep my mind. To remember." Remus beamed.
"I'm glad. So very glad." And he pulled his friend into a bear hug.
"Sirius!" Remus shouted, hurling into the living room where Sirius was seated. His friend glanced up from the book he was reading. Upon seeing Remus's shining face, Sirius set it down and looked up expectantly. Even two months later, he wasn't one for much talk, but he was slowly regaining his old self back.
"They've set the trail date!" Remus grinned. Sirius smiled softly, but widened his eyes in amazement when his friend grabbed him and pulled him into a bear hug.
"Relax, Remus." He said, smiling as Remus let him go.
"Relax? I can't relax! This is it, Siri. This is our chance to show the world you truly are innocent and that the ministry was wrong. That'll show those bastards not to imprison my friends without a trial!" He growled.
"Why do I feel as though we've switched roles?" Sirius asked. Remus grinned.
"God, there's so much to do. We need to get clean robes, rehearse, I mean we are key witnesses, and you're just as much on trial as he is, it's a good thing you're looking more like yourself. No girl on the jury could have stood up to you in your glory days. Oh and I need to go to the store. You'll be hungry and-"
"Remus." Sirius said quietly. "Calm down." Remus only grinned.
Two days later, they were making their way through a frenzied crowd towards the courthouse. Reporters and journalists screamed at them from all sides. Remus sent them an icy glare, which made some back off. He and Sirius made their way through the crowded halls to the courtroom. Not to their surprise, it was packed. They took their seats in front and began to wait
The room began to fill, and soon Fudge entered. His position as minister gave him the right to reside over the trial. Everyone stood as he entered. Fudge took his wand and tapped the bench, ordering, "This court is now in session."
Two dementors brought out Peter and held him down while another fastened him to the chair in the center of the room. Peter looked pale and was shivering. Sirius smiled, knowing Peter had gotten a taste of Azkaban, and the hell he'd sentenced him to for so long. His lawyer sat in the chair next to him, as was his right. He leaned over and whispered something to Peter.
"We are here to determine the guilt of one, Peter Pettigrew. Mr. Pettigrew, you are accused of murder, spying for the Dark Lord and helping to falsely imprison Sirius Black. How do you plead?"
"Sir, my client pleads not guilty."
A rush swept through the courtroom. Sirius was on his feet in a moment, but Remus yanked him down.
"Not guilty? How dare he plead not guilty?" He whispered harshly. Even Fudge looked surprised.
"Not guilty, your honor."
Fudge looked confused, but nodded.
"Alright then. We will continue."
"Sir?" the lawyer asked. "We would like to call our first witness." After presenting a string of ministry officials and muggles, all whom had been there that day, Peter's lawyer smiled smugly.
"Now we would like to call our last witness, a Mr. Sirius Black." Remus gave Sirius a pat on the back as he made his way up to the witness stand. Sirius took his place.
'Mr. Black, please tell the court where you spent the last ten years of your life."
"Azkaban." Sirius said. Remus noticed his voice was a little hoarse.
"And why were you there?" Sirius drew himself up to his full height and aimed that dead, haunted look straight at the jury
"I was imprisoned for a crime I did not commit by a ministry unwilling to listen and needing someone to blame. "
A rush of whispers swept across the courtroom and the lawyer looked a bit nervous. Remus smiled proudly. That's my Sirius, he thought.
The lawyer cleared his throat. " That was not what I asked you. I asked you why you were in Azkaban."
"That is my answer." Sirius kept his haunted gaze trained on the man, his voice echoing solemnly across the hall.
"But what were you accused of?" Sirius paused a moment.
"The same crimes that that little rat is rightfully being tried for."
"And could you explain to us in detail what happened that night. The night the Potter's died."
Remus watched him carefully. That night had never come up in their conversations. Remus had purposely avoided the subject, knowing of the distress it caused his friend. Distress that was plainly showing on his face. Sirius's face had gone pale, his eyes were screwed shut, and his hands were gripping the armrests so tightly his knuckles were turning white.
"Mr. Black?" Sirius opened his eyes. The lawyer and Fudge were gazing at him, not to mention the entire courtroom. He locked eyes with Remus who gave him a encouraging smile. Go on Black, you know you'd have to do it someday.
"It was Halloween, the day after we'd switched."
"Excuse me, switched what?"
"Secret keepers. We switched from me to Peter."
"Thought it would be safer. Voldemort would go after me and never even suspect dumb little Pety. No one would. But the plan backfired. It worked too well. When it was all over no one would believe me."
"Indeed," Fudge said," Continue."
" I had arranged to check on Peter that night, make sure he was ready to go into hiding. But when I got to his flat, he wasn't there. No one was. There was no sign of a struggle. It was like he'd just up and left.. Gone out for a walk or something. But I knew he couldn't have. Besides, it didn't smell right."
The words were beginning to pour out of his mouth as Sirius was taken back ten years to that awful Halloween night. Instead of a courtroom in from of him, he was inside Peter's flat. Sniffing, knowing this wasn't right.
"I ran. I got on my bike and flew to James's house, praying I wasn't too late." There was the house, laying in smoldering ruin before his eyes. "But I was too late. I ran for the house, looking for James and Lily and Harry, hoping to god they were alive, but knowing it was impossible."
No one said a word. The courtroom was as silent as a tomb as Sirius spoke.
"Then I found them. I stumbled over James. He was laying there, his arm outstretched to Lily. But he wasn't dead! He was alive, just barely."
A rush swept through the courtroom. James Potter had been alive?
"I bent down beside him. He opened his eyes and saw me. He said he was sorry, that he'd been a fool. He wouldn't tell me why. He told me, made me promise to take Harry, said that it was all up to him now. I promised and he closed his eyes."
Sirius could hear the strained voice, begging him, forcing an oath out of him, an oath he knew he hadn't kept.
"Then he died there. In my arms. I couldn't move, couldn't stop it, hell, I couldn't breathe. Couldn't think. I sat there and cried. I held my best friend in my arms and I cried." Even now, he could see James's face, watch as the tears fell from his own cheeks and dropped, leaving small droplets of water on James's face and hair. It was as if James himself was crying.
"Hagrid came and let me hold Harry. But I had to give him up, had to let go of the last thing I had of James. And it broke me. I swore that I would hunt down and kill the traitor who did this. I swore on James's grave that I would kill him as he had murdered those who were my only family."
"And now?" Fudge's voice was soft.
"Now I don't care. I want to go back to that night. I want to make another choice. I want to make Hagrid give me Harry, as I tried to. I want to raise him as my own, as I swore I would. I want to teach him about his brave and wonderful parents who gave so much so that he might live. I want Harry. I want to live. I want to be free. Free from this overwhelming guilt, free from that little voice that tells me every day you're guilty, it was your fault Tigerily and Prongs died. I want to make those dark nightmares and harsh voices go away. I want to be happy. I want to be free."
He drew in a breath, wincing as the dry sob racked his body.
"Is that so much to ask? It's all I want, all I've ever wanted. I had it once and it was snatched away from me suddenly and painfully. And now, I just want things to be right, I want people to know the truth. I just want to live my life. Can't I have just that? It's not much, it's not something unreasonable. Is it really so much?"
There was a silence as Sirius's voice stopped. He slowly became aware of his new reality and realized that his face was soaked with tears he didn't remember crying. He wiped at his eyes, sniffling a bit. He glanced up and saw there was not one dry face in the crowd. Remus had tears streaming down his face, but he was smiling. So was Dumbledore who was comforting McGonagall. Even good old Mad-Eye Moody was wiping at his good eye. Only Peter remained hard and cold.
"Thank you, Mr. Black. You may step down." Fudge's voice was strangely hoarse. Sirius got to his feet and took a step towards his seat. However the sights and sounds of that night so long pushed aside overwhelmed him and he fought back the darkness that was trying to overpower him. Suddenly, he found it hard to breathe.
Sirius closed his eyes, gathering his strength. Something was wrong. His knees felt weak and he could hardly stand. His breath was getting awfully short. He could hear voices, though they were faded and distant and echoed strangely in his mind as if he were underwater. He opened his eyes and his gaze landed on Peter.
Peter was smiling at him. A harsh cold smile that held no comfort. Whatever was wrong, Peter was behind it. He fought back the darkness, fighting to raise his arm to point, then collapsing back into a sea of blackness.
Remus smiled proudly as Sirius climbed down. Though he was pale, Sirius looked alright. But then he grabbed onto the hand rest, as if struck by lightning. Remus could see him fighting something, forcing something back as he stood, unmoving, surprise clearly written on his face.
"Mr. Black?" Fudge asked. "Mr. Black, are you alright?" Sirius said nothing, but with great effort, raised his arm and pointed. The whole room looked where he was pointing.
Peter was looking both smug and grim as he stared intently at Sirius. Remus saw their gazes lock and felt something cold run down his spine. Then he heard a thud! When he looked back, Sirius was on the floor. He jumped out for his seat and over the railing. He was by Sirius's side before anyone else.
"Someone get a doctor!" He shouted as he cradled Sirius's head in his hands. "Sirius, come on! Wake up, Siri! Padfoot, come on!" A medic pushed her way through the crowd and knelt beside Sirius. She took his pulse, and then shouted to her companions.
"Hurry up! He's not breathing!"
"What?" Remus gasped. She ignored him and pointed her wand at Sirius. She murmured something and a band of silvery stuff burst out and forced its way into Sirius's mouth. There was an agonizing second then Sirius drew a shaky breath. The rest of the room let out their own sighs of relief.
A few seconds later the stretchers arrived and they loaded Sirius up onto it and out the door, Remus on their heels.
Sirius opened his eyes to Remus's worried face. As soon as the room swam into focus, he saw Remus was now smiling.
"Evening?" he asked, wondering why his throat was so hoarse.
"Shh, don't speak. Your throat is sore enough as it is."
"What happened?" Remus sighed and slumped into the chair by the bed. "Where am I?"
"The hospital. Peter tired to kill you, using some dark arts spell. Almost did. Luckily that medic had been around during the war and knew what to do." He leaned forward, resting his elbows on Sirius's bed.
"Never mind. Guess what?" he said smiling.
"What?" Remus held up the newspaper. On the front was a picture of Sirius, sitting in the witness box, tears on his face. The entire room was crying as well. The headline read, Black moves courtroom to tears. Pettigrew found guilty.
"This means you're free."
"Free." Sirius whispered, finding new meaning in the word for the first time in ten years, "Free."
"Sirius?" Remus called. Sirius poked his head out from behind the fridge door. Remus groaned.
"Are you eating again?" Sirius grinned and tore a bite off of the chicken leg.
"Can't help it. You've got chicken." He replied, turning back to piling more chicken legs on his pale.
"What is it with you and chicken?' Remus moaned. Then he frowned. " And why are all the windows closed? It's stifling." He pulled the kitchen window open.
"I was cold." Sirius replied. Remus sighed. Sirius ignored him, knowing exactly what he was thinking. Even after six month's, Azkaban had not completely lost it's grip on him. Only he would be cold in July.
"So, Padfoot," Remus said, by way of changing the subject. " You know what Tuesday is?" Sirius shook his head and finished off the leg, reaching for another.
"It's Harry's birthday."
Sirius put down the chicken leg and stared at him. "Harry?" he asked, hoarsely. "James's Harry?" Remus nodded.
"He'll be eleven."
Sirius suddenly was not hungry anymore. "He's still with Petunia, then?" Remus nodded.
"The last time I checked."
Sirius sat back. "Do you think they told him? About Lily and James, I mean?" Remus shrugged.
"Doubt it. You know Petunia's views on magic. Poor kid probably doesn't have a clue."
"Maybe it's time someone gave him one." Sirius muttered.
The wheels in his head were turning. He was Harry's godfather, wasn't he? It was something he'd long forgotten, but it was true. And James and Lily had left Harry to him, to take care of and raise. There was no reason that still couldn't be true, was there? Maybe a trip to Surry was in order.
"Oh no, what are you plotting?" Remus's voice startled Sirius and he jumped.
"What?" he asked. He picked up his plate, feeling embarrassed about being too jumpy. Remus must have noticed, but he said nothing. He never did. He always pretended nothing had happened and carried on as usual. Sirius was grateful.
"You have that look on your face."
"I was just wondering why can't Harry come live here?" Now Remus looked surprised.
"Well yeah. I mean, I am his guardian, technically, and I'm qualified. Why not?" Remus shrugged.
"Bring it up with Dumbledore." Sirius nodded
"I may do just that."
Dumbledore's owl arrived Monday. Dumbledore's letter was more than persuasive. The old teacher practically yelled at him for not having thought of it earlier. Sirius grinned when Dumbledore explained the flight of the Dursleys after Harry's letters had come. He grinned, imagining the fat purple face of Vernon Dursley, that is, if the man hadn't lost weight in the ten years since Sirius had seen Lily's family.
And so, later that night he found himself on a rock in the ocean, in the middle of a raging storm.
He checked his watch, pulling his jacket tighter around himself to shelter him from the cold. He squinted to see the tiny hands on his watch, just past midnight.
Thunder cracked, he glared at the sky. Damn storm. He'd have to spend the night here then. He was not flying back with Harry in this. He sighed and raised his fist to bang on the door.
He winced as the door fell in on its hinges. Just then a flash of lightning lit up the sky and Sirius dashed in out of the rain and wind.
The first thing he saw was a rather large boy staring at him from the couch. The next instant the door to his right had burst open and a huge man was rushing into the room, a gun in his hands. Sirius grinned as he recognized Vernon Dursley.
"Vernon. How nice to see you again. And is this Dudley? My, he's grown?" He grinned at Petunia, hiding behind her husband. "Petunia! You remember me?" She gasped.
"You! What are you doing here!"? Sirius grinned.
"Can't I wish my godson a happy birthday? Where is he?" she gaped and pointed to his left. Sirius turned and was stuck with shock.
Staring at him, in clothes far too big, and broken glasses, untidy black hair that stuck up in the back, large emerald eyes, and a small lightning shaped scar on his forehead, was a boy. That was James's hair, James's face, and Lily's eyes. It was Harry.
"My god." He whispered. "Harry?"
Harry gaped at the tall man in front of him. How did he know his name? And why did Uncle Vernon and aunt Petunia look so frightened of him?
"My god." The man whispered. " he looks just like James." Then he smiled.
"What do you want !" Vernon roared. The man glared at him.
"To do what I should have done ten years ago! To get my godson!"
"Godson?" Harry murmured. He hadn't meant for the man to hear him, but he had.
"Yeah. I'm your godfather. The name's Sirius Black."
"My Godfather? I haven't got one!" Harry stammered.
"Actually, you have." The man, Sirius, told him. " Lily and James appointed me your godfather and guardian in case anything went wrong. In case Voldemort did go after them."
Harry frowned. "Who?"
Sirius eyed him. "Voldemort. The Dark Lord. You-know-who."
"No," Harry shook his head, "I don't." Sirius raised an eyebrow.
"Next you'll be telling me you don't know what Quiddich is."
Harry shook his head, marveling at this new word. But Sirius gaped at him.
"You don't know?" he knelt in front of Harry. " I was expecting you not to know about how Lily and James died, but you mean to tell me you don't know a thing? Do you even know what you are? What your parents were? Who they were?" Harry shook his head.
"They weren't anything special, were they?" Sirius laughed and sat back on his heels.
"Special? Harry, Lily and James Potter were my very best friends! And they were some of the most powerful ones on our side."
"What?" Harry was extremely confused.
"Harry, your parents were-"
"I forbid you to tell him anymore!" Vernon roared.
"Oh, stuff it Dursley!" Sirius shot back. " He got to his feet and glared daggers at the Dursleys. " You were supposed to tell him! You were supposed to tell him everything! But you didn't! You kept it from him for ten years! He's got a right to know who, least of all what he is!"
"Who am I?' Harry asked. Sirius frowned and turned back to him.
"Well, I was expecting you to at least know about us, our world, I mean. God, I wasn't expecting this." He groaned and slumped down on the couch, Dudley having vacated it a few minutes before. He moaned. "Where are you when I need you, Moony?" Then he sighed and sat up, staring Harry full in the face.
"There is no easy way to say this. And I know it's going to be a shock. God knows it was for me."
"For you?" Harry asked, genuinely curious. He approached Sirius and sat beside him. Sirius studied him for a moment.
"Yeah, I was like you. Raised a muggle. No clue until my letter arrived."
'What letter?" Sirius grinned.
"The letters we've been trying to get to you for the past eight days. You would have known, but these great muggles are determined to keep you in the dark." He glared at the Dursleys. "But, well, Harry, your parents were wizards. And that makes you one too."
Harry wasn't sure he'd heard properly. There were no such things as wizards, no such thing as magic, just like Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had told him many times. It was all play-acting, pretend. Wasn't it?
Sirius was watching Harry, judging his reaction. The silence in the shack was stifling. Harry forced himself to look up at Sirius. The man's strange pale eyes, in striking contrast to his dark features, were nothing but open and honest.
"I'm a what?" Harry whispered at last. Sirius smiled.
"A wizard." Then he reached into the jacket he was wearing and pulled out a letter. Slowly he handed it to Harry who took it, holding it as if it were the greatest treasure in the world. And to Harry, it was.
Hogwarts SchoolOf Witchcraft and Wizardry
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf Warlock, Supreme
Mugwwump, International Confed, of Wizards)
Dear Mr. Potter,
We are pleased to inform you have been accepted at
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all
necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.
Harry looked up at Sirius who grinned at him.
"What, what does it mean await my owl?" Harry asked, trying to decide just what question to ask first.
Sirius nodded. " Yeah owls. You'll be seeing loads of them. We use them instead of the regular post. Faster, and cheaper too. You get a pet and someone to deliver your post too. Great deal. We'll send yours as soon as we get home."
Home. That word sent Harry back into his silent shock. Home? He was going to have a real home!
"Home?" he whispered, wondering if the hope that he felt was showing through his eyes. Sirius nodded.
"Home. It's not much, I don't really have a house myself. Not yet anyway. I live with my friend, Remus Lupin. He's got enough room. It's not Buckingham, but it's good enough for us."
"Lupin? That monster is still alive?" Petunia wrinkled her nose. Instantly Sirius was on his feet, his wand pointed at Petunia.
"I turned you into a frog once, Petunia. I would enjoy to do it again. Make one more comment about Remus and I swear you will not get off this island in one piece." He hissed in a low dangerous voice. For the first time, Harry realized Sirius was not someone to tangle with.
Petunia whimpered and resumed her place behind Vernon. Sirius glared at her, but turned back to Harry.
"God, James would have killed me if he knew he was leaving his son in the hands of great bleeding muggles like you." Sirius muttered.
"He didn't mean to leave me with them?" Harry asked. Sirius shook his head.
"No! No, actually, Lily and James said that was the last thing they wanted. Lily knew what kind of a person her sister was." he glared at Petunia. "She knew she hated her kind. You were supposed to go with me, or at least with Remus."
Harry frowned. "Then why didn't I?" Sirius shifted and for the first time, he seemed a bit uncomfortable. He hesitated for a long time before answering.
"There were certain complications that prevented me from well, leaving the place where I was."
"Where were you?" Harry was determined to find out where Sirius had been and what had prevented him from taking Harry. Sirius instead, glanced at his wrist, Harry noticed a watch, and raised an eyebrow.
"Well, I am a bit late. Ten years, but I came as soon as I could. Be sure of that. I wanted to take you that night Harry, I really did. I almost cursed Hagrid when he took you. You were all I had left of James and Lily." Sirius knelt in front of Harry, his eyes misty.
"The night they died?" he asked. Sirius nodded.
" The house was in ruins." He whispered, staring off into space as if he could see something the rest couldn't. " You'd barely know that an hour ago it'd been a charming Tudor cottage. James lie where he'd fallen, near the door. Lily-" his eyes were wrenched shut and Harry noticed his hands were shaking.
"But- but I thought they died in a car crash." Sirius's eyes snapped open.
"A car crash?" he asked. Harry nodded. Then he turned on Petunia and Vernon. "A car crash! A car crash killed Lily and James? Ha!" he laughed. The laugh was cold and harsh. " Lily and James were killed by the only thing that could kill them!"
"What was that?" Harry asked. Sirius turned and looked at him, eyes bright again.
"Voldemort." He whispered.
"What?" Harry asked, wondering if he'd heard right.
"Voldemort." Sirius said louder. " The worse, most dangerous dark wizard alive." He shivered violently. "It was war. Bloody war, Harry. Good against evil. You didn't know who to trust, where was safe. Hogwarts was the only safe place, only because Dumbledore was there and he was really the only one Voldemort was afraid of. He was after them, James and Lily, he was after all of us. All who opposed him, all those with an ounce of justice in them, were murdered one by one. There weren't many of us left by that time and we were beginning to loose hope. Then we learned he was after the Potters, you." He glanced at Harry. "Lily and James and you. You weren't more than a year old, and he wanted you dead. We didn't know why. I didn't care. So I did my best to save your family, Lily, James, and you." His voice was wavering, " But my best wasn't good enough." He shivered, and let out a long shuddering sigh.
"That night, Halloween, he came to your house, killed your parents, murdered them as they tried to fight him off, but you," he pointed at Harry, "You survived him." Harry frowned.
"Not only survived, but destroyed him. You, Harry, you are the boy who lived. You are the one who drove Voldemort off. The most powerful wizards hadn't been able to do it, and you, only a one year old, had done it. but it was at the cost of your parents." His voice ended in a chocked off sob. Sirius swallowed hard and wiped at his eyes. then he smiled. "Bet you didn't know you were famous, did you."
"But I'm not! How can I be famous?" Harry gasped. This wasn't right. This couldn't be. If he was so famous, so powerful, why could Dudley always use him for a punch bag? There wasn't anything different or magic about Harry Potter. "You've got the wrong boy," he told Sirius, " I'm not magical, not powerful. I'm nothing special."
Sirius grinned. " Think back Harry. Have you ever made anything happen? Say when you were angry, or upset about something. When I was a kid, I did some odd things. Just think back." Harry thought. Well, there was the time on the school roof, and the time he turned has teachers wig blue, oh, and the sweater, and the most recent, the boa constrictor. He smiled slowly, and Sirius nodded.
"That's magic. Pure and simple. You'll be learning a bit more advanced at school, though."
School, not Stonewall, not Smeltings, Hogwarts. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I'm not just a normal boy, Harry thought, I'm different. I'm special. He grinned. And Sirius grinned back. And someone wants me.
"So?" Harry asked, grinning. The thought for a home, a place he could call his own, a place were he was cared about and loved and not shunned like some kind of disease was a heaven. He couldn't wait to go, "When do we leave?" Sirius beamed and opened his mouth. But Vernon growled.
"He's not going. I'm not paying for it." Sirius glared at him.
"And you are going to stop him how? Why, if Harry wanted he could turn you all into rats, but then, that would be a step up, wouldn't it?"
Vernon gaped, and then took a commanding step forward. "I will not be spoken to in that manner! I demand to be treated with the respect I deserve."
"I am treating you with all the respect you deserve." Sirius told him. Then he waved his wand.
Petunia gave a shriek and Vernon glared at her.
"What is it? What?"
"Your hair, dad." Dudley gasped. He was right. Vernon's normally plastered hair was now a shocking bright pink. Vernon bellowed loud enough Harry wouldn't be surprised if the people on the land heard. Then the furious man dragged his wife and son into the next door and slammed the door. Sirius let out a sigh of relief.
"That was very refreshing." Harry gaped at him.
"How did you do that?"
"You like that? Learnt it from your dad, I did." Sirius settled down on the couch. Harry climbed up beside him.
"He did that?"
"Constantly." Sirius smiled. " Loved doing it to your mum. She hated it. I remember once he was determined for a week to turn her hair green because he wanted to see if it would match her eyes." Harry grinned.
"Sirius?" His new godfather looked at him.
"Yes?" Harry glanced at the floor.
"When are we leaving?" Sirius glanced out at the small cracked window. The wind was still roaring and a flash of lightning lit the shack.
"Tomorrow." He said. "There's no way I'm taking you out in that. I almost crashed three times and that was just me."
"Crashed? On what?"
"My bike." Sirius told him. But now," he turned to look at Harry. "It's late and tomorrow's a big day. Why don't you get some rest?" He got up and offered Harry the couch. Harry lay down and he was surprised when Sirius peeled off his leather jacket and lay it over him. Then he turned and watched the storm for a moment. Harry frowned. He noticed Sirius was shivering violently.
"What about you?" Sirius glanced up.
'Oh, I'll be fine." He knelt in front of the grate and lit a fire with his wand. He held his hands over the fire and Harry could see them trembling. Sirius took several deep breaths and Harry watched him, worried.
"Are you alright?" Sirius looked up, startled and Harry was shocked to see a strange look pass over Sirius's face. But it was gone in an instant and Sirius was smiling again.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Now go to sleep." He said, his voice calm. But Harry could still see his hands were shaking.
"But you're shaking."
"Just cold." Sirius said and turned back to the fire. Harry studied him for a moment. "Harry, go to sleep." Sirius said, not turning around. Harry sighed and pulled the coat closer. He closed his eyes, wondering just how much his new godfather wasn't telling him.
Oh well, he thought. It doesn't matter and I don't care. He's here, to take me away from the Dursleys and that's all that matters. For once, for the first time, I have a family. And listening to the fire crackle and pop, Harry fell asleep.
Sirius shivered violently. Damn cold. Harry was fast asleep on the couch and for that, Sirius was glad. The kid looked like he could use a few good nights sleeps. So could he, now that he thought about it. But that wasn't going to happen. Not tonight.
He should have let Remus give him a bottle of that potion. But then he had planned on being back that night. The storm had erupted just over Hastings. If he'd been gone only a few hours like he'd planned, and been back with Harry that night, he wouldn't have had to worry about the dreams. The potion eliminated all possibility. But without it, Sirius was simply not sure. The nightmares came when he least expected or needed them. And tonight, having one might just scare Harry. Sirius shivered violently and moved closer to the fire.
He used to love storms. When he was a boy, he would stay up and watch them. He smiled when he remembered his little sister, Addi. She was terrified of them. She'd always slip into his room during a storm and they'd curl up in bed together and watch the lightning light up the Devon countryside where he grew up.
But she was gone. He sighed, Addi was gone just like his parents, and, James and Lily and so many others. He closed his eyes, hugging his knees close to his chest and trying to block out the harsh howling of the wind.
Harry mumbled and rolled over. Sirius shivered again, wishing he'd thought to bring another coat. The fire crackled comfortingly, reminding him just how lucky he was to even have a fire. In Azkaban, cold seeped into everything. Even in the hot summer months, the prison was freezing. But it wasn't even the kind of cold you could chase away with the fire. It was the kind that went right through any clothing, any protection you might have, and straight through to your heart. Then it took a hold of your heart and squeezed. It held on tight and clenched around your heart, contracting violently and painfully. And it never let go.
Even now, he could still feel the hard cold grip in his chest. Six months of warmth and love and kindness had done some good to relieve the painful pressure. Remus's kind and patience care had restored Sirius to a version of his former self.
At least, that is what he thought. Nothing could bring back that carefree reckless boy he'd been so long ago. Six months of warmth couldn't erase ten years of cold, no matter how hard Remus tried. Sirius shivered and closed his eyes. A little sleep was better than sitting here awake with his memories.
Harry snuggled deeper into the soft warmth. He was in no mood to awake from the soft pleasant place he was and find himself on the floor of the old shack. The dream had been too nice; he was leaving the Dursley's. His long lost godfather had come to take him away.
"Harry." The voice came again, rousing Harry out of his sleep. He groaned and opened his eyes. The leather jacket slipped down over his waist. He gaped at it, and then looked up. Sirius's grinning face was in front of him.
"You ready to go?" Harry sat up.
"It was real. It wasn't a dream. It was real."
"Course it was." Sirius laughed and Harry noted a hint of an accent in his lilt. "Come on, then. Remus will be worried. He was expecting us last night and the storms over now." Harry handed Sirius his jacket back, but Sirius shook his head.
"Keep it for now. It gets cold up there."
"Up where?" Harry asked. Sirius grinned and motioned for Harry to follow him out the door. When he yanked open the door, and walked outside, Harry followed him, wondering what Sirius could have meant.
"There she is. She's a beauty, ain't she?" Sirius asked. Harry looked where he was pointing. There, leaning against the hut, was the largest motorbike Harry had ever seen.
"Is, is that yours?" he asked.
" Sure is. Hop on." He straddled the huge bike and handed Harry a spare helmet. Harry grinned and climbed on behind. Sirius revved the motor.
"Hang on!" He called over the roar of the engine. Harry wrapped his arms around his godfather's waist.
"But Sirius!" he shouted," we're on an island. How are we going to get off?" Sirius grinned over his shoulder.
"Just hang on, you'll see." Then he kicked the bike into motion. They sped closer to the edge.
Was he mad? Harry wondered. 'Sirius! What are you doing?" he cried as the bike raced towards the sea. But instead of slowing down, the bike was beginning to pick up speed. Faster and faster, closer and closer. Until they raced over the edge of the rock.
Harry closed his eyes and waited for the splash, but it never came. He could feel the ocean spray on his face; hear the wind whip past his face. He opened his eyes and saw to his amazement, they were flying!
He watched as the rock became smaller and smaller, then they were flying above pastures and fields. Harry laughed as they passed a flight of birds, all squawking in surprise as Sirius sent the bike after them. He could feel Sirius's deep laugh as they raced the flock, diving lower and then rising above the clouds once more. Harry felt his heart soar and he laughed. He was free of the Dursley's forever. This was the most fun he'd ever had in his entire life.
Sirius glanced up at the setting sun. He felt Harry shift behind him and wondered if he was waking up. He'd fallen asleep over Salisbury, just after they'd stopped at that roadside stand for a bite to eat.
He was late and Remus was going to kill him. They neared Carno and Sirius knew they were close. Remus's small village was only fifteen more minutes. He set the bike down gently down the road from the cottage and rumbled up the driveway. It was dark now and the lights were on. He could see the candle's flickering in the window.
He pulled up in front of the cottage; just behind the shack Remus used every month and had just pulled off his helmet when Remus ran outside.
"Sirius Lee Black! Where on earth have you been?" Sirius shushed him as he lifted Harry in his arms.
"Careful, you'll wake him." He carried Harry inside. Remus stared in wonder at the boy who was his best friend's twin.
"God, he looks so much like James," he whispered.
"I know. All but the eyes and the scar." Remus pushed back Harry's bangs to reveal the dreaded lightning scar.
"Indeed. Well, come on then. I have his room ready." he led him up to the first floor.
"Got everything ready last night. You were supposed to be back."
"I know, I know. Got caught in a storm. We had to spend the night in that god-awful shack. I knew you'd kill me if I took him out in that storm." Remus opened the door and led them inside.
Sirius smiled, admiring Remus's job at redecorating. What had up until now been a storage room was now a comfortable bedroom, bookshelves stacked with books, both muggle and magic, a desk, a bed, and pictures. Remus had pulled out most of the pictures of Lily and James, both wizarding and muggle and placed them all around the room. Sirius laid Harry down on the small single bed. He pulled off his shoes and carefully tucked him in. Harry mumbled and rolled over in his sleep.
They stood watching him for a few minutes, then made their way to the kitchen. Without a word, Remus handed Sirius a glass, which Sirius drank without even making a face. He climbed up to his own room and was asleep in an instant.
Some thing was wrong. It was too warm, too comfortable for his cupboard, Harry thought. He rolled over, not wanting to open his eyes to the screeching of Aunt Petunia, yelling at him to get up and watch the bacon again.
Something did smell good, he noticed, bacon and sausage. But again, something wasn't right. The smells and now sounds, as he could hear the grease frying and pots rattling, were coming from below him as opposed to right outside his door.
He frowned and opened his eyes and found himself face to face with a photograph of himself! Or at least a ten-year-older blue eyed version of himself with a beautiful girl with fiery red hair and familiar green eyes on his arm. He sat up, gazing at the picture. He picked it up and stared closely. He was shocked when the couple turned to look and wave at him. In his surprise, he dropped it on the bed,
It landed face down. Slowly he picked it up and as he did, he noticed the writing on the back. The handwriting was sloppy and loopy, making it a bit difficult to read.
Tigerlily and Prongs, June 3rd, 1979. Tigerlily and Prongs? Glancing around, he noticed that the room he was in was unfamiliar as well. It was comfortly furnished with a desk, chair, a wardrobe and several bookshelves. Getting out of the soft warm bed, he walked over and studied the titles, the frame still in his hands. They ranged from Marvin's Guide to Magical Herbs, to A Tale of Two Cities.
Looking around he also saw that there were many pictures of the man and woman around the room. He picked one on the desk. This one was of three boys, all laughing and rolling on the ground, a castle and lake were behind them. One was the boy in the other pictures. The other two looked vaguely familiar. One had light brown hair, almost red though Harry wondered if it was just the light that made him see a flash of gray as well. He was thin and small, and there was a look of something different about him. But his smile seemed kind. The other boy was currently grinning and waving franticly at Harry. He had black hair and pale eyes, like the moon, they were. Like Sirius's. He was the tallest of the three and had a much stockier build than the other two. But he soon grew tired of waving and launched himself at his photogenic friends. Harry watched them roll around of the grass for a moment. He turned it over and read, three of the Four Marauders, Moony, Padfoot and Prongs. Dunno where Wormtail is. We think the squid ate him. This handwriting was different. It was small and delicate and easily readable.
Slowly, he put it down. The names, Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs seemed so familiar to him. A strange echo, much like the green light and the laughter that so often haunted his dreams, flitted through his head and was gone. An echo of a voice, free of a decade of pain and disuse and a century younger. A flicker of pale eyes and a mischievous smile. Then nothing.
The smells of breakfast did wonders on his hungry stomach. He made his way into the kitchen where he found it empty, but the table was set for three. The kitchen was small, like most of the rooms in the house, but had a cheery fireplace and an old-fashioned potbelly stove. The sink and stove were below a large window, which looked out onto the garden. He looked out the window and was surprised to see a lovely garden, flowers growing, with honeysuckle climbing the porch pillars. Several lilies were placed in a small vase on the sill. The window was open, letting the cool summer breeze waft through the kitchen.
"Sirius?" he called, wondering just where his new guardian was.
"He's sleeping. " a voice startled him. Harry whirled around to see a tall thin man enter with an arm full of firewood. He dropped in front of the fire and dusted off. When he'd cleaned the bits of bark off, he smiled gently and offered Harry his hand.
"Remus Lupin." Harry smiled and took it. Sirius had told him about Remus, saying they were lucky Remus had space, otherwise they'd be stuck as to a place to live.
"By God, you look more like James than ever." Remus whispered. "Except for the eyes. You have Lily's eyes, you know." Harry nodded.
"Sirius told me."
"Sirius." Remus smiled. "It sounds odd to hear you call him that."
"Why?" Harry asked.
"Well, you never could say his name. Too difficult for a baby, I'd imagine. So it was always Pafoo."
"What?" Harry asked.
" Your version of Padfoot." That name, Padfoot, the name on the back of that picture, Harry realized. But Remus kept talking. "You wouldn't remember. It used to drive your Dad insane with laughter, watching him try and teach you how to say it properly and having you insist his name was Pafoo." He laughed at the memory.
"Sirius's name was Padfoot?" Remus nodded.
"We all had nicknames. Sirius was Padfoot, James was Prongs, Lily was Tigerlily, Peter was Wormtail and I was Moony."
"Who's Peter?" Harry asked. Remus's face clouded over.
'Perhaps it would be best if he were not mentioned in this house."
"Let's just say he was not the friend your parents thought he was."
There was a momentary uncomfortable silence. Then Harry's stomach gave a rumble. Remus flashed him and grin and motioned to the table.
"I'm sure you're hungry. Sit down." Harry did so. "What would you like?"
"Well, I smelled bacon earlier."
"Good. I was just making some." Remus reached into the oven and pulled out a pan. He set it on the stove and lit it with a tap of the wand he pulled out of his pocket. Harry was eager to see more magic and watched curiously.
"Let's see if the smell of bacon doesn't wake Sirius up." Remus grinned. Harry smiled and laughed.
"Like to help?" Harry nodded. " Why don't you separate those eggs? We can make an omelet."
Harry had just finished when a tired slumped figure made it's way into the kitchen and almost fell into his seat at the table.
"Ah, Padfoot. I was about to wake you."
"That potion was a bit strong last night. I doubt James's Lily dreams could have woken me up." Sirius mumbled.
"Lily dreams?" asked Harry, who hurried over to sit next to Sirius. Sirius grinned, and tried to cover a yawn.
"Yep. Lily dreams. Had them every night."
"But he denied it every morning. Even after we taped him one night." Remus explained, setting a load of bacon on Sirius's plate. Harry looked up to answer, which he wanted, milk or juice, to Remus and when he looked back, Sirius's plate was empty. He stared as he saw Sirius help himself to the toast, stacked high. Watching, He was amazed by the way Sirius seemed to inhale the food, as if he hadn't eaten in years. Sirius paused to wave at Harry's plate.
"Eat up. We've got things to do today."
"Like what?" Harry asked, picking up his fork.
Sirius paused again. "Well, we need to get your school supplies. Better to get them now so you don't have to worry later."
Sirius motioned towards his plate and Harry finished quickly. Then Sirius shooed him up to his room to get dressed.
"You can't expect to go shopping in that, do you?" Harry shook his head. He was still wearing Dudley's old clothes and suddenly noticed, to contrast to the full set of robes in his wardrobe, how ragged and old they were. He picked out a long black robe, perfectly fitting, though a little strange. He was not used to wearing such things as robes, but still, it was comfortable. He stood for a moment, looking at himself in the full length mirror, he looked quite different from the small beaten boy of two days ago.
He hurried down the stairs to find Sirius in front of the hall mirror, brushing his hair back into a small pony tail. He turned and grinned at Harry as he came down.
"Ready?" he asked. Harry nodded. Sirius led him to the door where Remus was waiting.
"Have fun, but no too much, " he scolded his friend, handing Sirius several papers, "You do have a job to do. You have to get Harry's school things, stop by the apothecary, make that deposit in Gringott,s you have his key?" Sirius laughed.
"Remus, Remus, Remus, we can handle things, relax." He took the lists, " You just make yourself a cup of hot tea and sleep well tonight.." he gave Remus a long look that seemed to communicate something Harry couldn't hear. Remus smiled a bit.
"Are you sure you're ready for this? Diagon Alley can be crowded. You sure you're ready to go back?" Sirius's hand slipped around Harry's shoulders.
"Well, I don't really have a chance now, do I?" he asked, living up to his name for the first time. Then he grinned and the moment was gone. he embraced Remus in a quick hug and herded Harry out into the garden.
"You go and enjoy yourselves, I'll see you tomorrow then." Remus waved goodbye as Harry climbed onto the back of Sirius's bike. Sirius revved the engine and they were off.
In the years Harry would spend with his godfather, he never ceased to love to fly. He never grew tired of diving in among the clouds, scattering flocks of birds as they laughed and rode the wind like eagles. He loved to lean over as much as he dared and see the countryside fly by in an instant, blurred by the passing of the wind. He would grin down at the tiny ant people as they hurried about their lives. He couldn't imagine a world without flying. Here, up in the air, he could truly be free.
Harry didn't know it, but he was feeling the same sensations that had driven Sirius to include this special feature in his bike. Being muggle born, Sirius had no experience with magic until his first flying lesson in which he flew circles around James, who just laughed at him.
Sirius grinned as Harry laughed at the birds beside him. He hadn't wanted to leave Remus behind, but necessary called for it. tonight was the full moon, and both felt Harry was not ready for that yet. So they devised a simple plan. Sirius would take Harry to Diagon Alley, spend the day there, get his school things and several other things they needed, spend the night there then head back in the morning, hopefully giving Remus enough time to recover.
Sirius landed softly just outside London. Harry noticed that the motorbike, no matter how far back in the line of traffic it was, always seemed to manage to get to the front rather quickly. It was as if it was simply diving in between the cars, but that couldn't be so.
Magic or not, the motorbike brought them to Charing Cross road and Sirius dismounted. He tapped the bike with his sleeve, up which his wand was stored, Harry had no doubt, and led Harry into a small pub off to his right which had completely escaped Harry's noticed until Sirius steered him inside.
As soon as they entered a furious round of whispering echoed through the pub, then all were silent, staring in awe, or perhaps fear, at Harry and Sirius. Sirius said nothing, but took Harry by the shoulder and steered him to the counter.
"Good morning Tom." Sirius said, smiling. The old bartender, whom Harry noticed had no teeth, seemed to relax a bit a smile back at Sirius. The tension in the pub died down a bit and the chatter resumed.
"Morning, young Sirius. Been a while, hasn't it?" Sirius nodded. "Why, I remember when you, James Potter, and that Lupin boy would come in here, drinking butterbeer till the sun came up, then stumbling back home. But you always remembered to say goodnight, didn't you now?"
"Most of those evenings are a bit cloudy in my memory, Tom." Sirius said grinning. " I'm in town for the night. Getting Harry his school things. Got a room for the night?" but it was obvious old Tom hadn't heard a word past Harry. He was staring at Harry, eyes open wide, toothless mouth gaping.
"That isn't- that's not little Harry Potter, is it?" Harry felt Sirius put his hand on his shoulder. He looked up and saw Sirius nod. Once again every noise in the place died down and people stared this time in awe and admiration. An old witch with a velvet pink cloak stepped up and took his hand.
"Delilah Thrombi, Mr. Potter, delighted, so delighted to meet you!" one by one people shook his hand, all pouring sympathies and compliments. He felt Sirius's hand shake on his shoulder a bit, and got the impression Sirius was suppressing his laughter. After a while, he dragged Harry away from the adoring crowd and pulled him towards the back door.
As soon as the door closed, Sirius collapsed into fits of laughter, leaning against the wall for support. At first Harry was a bit peeved that Sirius found this so funny, but soon he gave in and his laughter joined Sirius's. after he'd recovered, he turned to find a small brick courtyard, with nothing bit a few rubbish bins.
"Sirius, what are we doing here?"
"Watch and learn, Harry. Watch and learn." Was all his guardian would reply as he counted the bricks and tapped his wand on a certain one. In an instant, the bricks had cleared away and Harry was faced with a most wondrous sight.
A street, filled to the brim with ancient looking shops, strangely dressed witches and wizards, more amazing things than Harry had ever seen. They passed a broom shop, a robe shop, a pet store, though Harry had never seen one that sold owls, bats, and strange animals he couldn't even begin to identify.
"Sirius?" he called as he hurried to catch up to his godfather, who was hurrying along past everything. Sirius paused and waited for him to catch up before continuing.
"Sirius, where are we going?" Sirius pointed ahead.
"Gringotts. Need to get you some money." Gringotts turned out to be a lopsided building, guarded by strange creature, which Sirius told him were goblins.
They approached a high desk, almost as high as Sirius, and that was saying something. Perched on a tall stool behind the desk was a sullen looking goblin that peered over his spectacles and frowned at them. Harry got the impression that these were not creatures to fool with.
"Yes?" the goblin asked. Surprisingly, he had a relatively normal voice, though Harry wasn't sure what he was expecting.
"We've come to make a withdrawal from Vault 137, Mr. Harry Potter's and from 101, mine."
"Do you have the keys?" Sirius dug in his pocket
and pulled out two small keys, one shiny silver and one a glittering gold. The goblin examined them, holding them up to
the light and peering closely before handing them back. "everything seems to be in order. Griphook will take you down."
Griphook turned out to be another goblin who ushered them into a cart and they set off. Harry watched in fascination as they whizzed by millions of things, sometimes only missing other carts by inches. But Sirius seemed unworried. He had his eyes closed.
"Sirius?" Harry asked, ready to ask him what was in his vault. But he noticed Sirius's hands were gripping the sides of the cart tightly, his knuckles were turning white, and that he was shivering violently, though it was hard to tell in the dim light.
When the cart slowed, Sirius took a deep breath, then opened his eyes and ushered Harry out of the cart. He did not seem to get better as Griphook showed Harry how to open his vault, but he smiled as he watched Harry view for the first time, the small fortune his parents had left him. when Harry had gotten enough, they set off again, only to stop at his own vault.
He opened it and sighed at the small pile of gold in the middle. He had never been as well off as James, and after school, though he seemed the type to spend carelessly, Sirius was very careful with money. He pushed a small amount into the bag, and then climbed back into the cart.
He was grateful this part was over. He hated the dark and the cold and it was both down here. He grinned and let out a sigh as they stepped back into the light. Harry looked up worriedly at him and he gave his godson a comforting smile.
"Are you alright, Sirius? You look a bit pale." Before Sirius could reassure Harry, a cold drawling voice oozed from behind him.
"Well, if it isn't everyone's favorite ex-convict." Sirius whirled around and groaned aloud at the sight of Lusious Malfoy.
"Well, if it isn't the world's most obnoxious person. Good morning Malfoy. I must admit I am a bit surprised to see you." He pasted a fake grin on his face and automatically stepped in front of Harry. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a boy about Harry's age behind Malfoy, from the looks of it, his son.
"And I must admit I am scandalized that you would venture here when you are clearly unwanted." Malfoy sneered. " If you had any sense, you would stay in that little backwater cottage for the rest of your miserable life and leave us decent people to live our lives without fear." Sirius growled and his fists clenched.
" You? Decent? I'd love to see that day. " He stepped closer and lowered his voice. "You may have the ministry fooled, Malfoy, you may think we don't know. But I've heard things in Azkaban. Things that would be enough to convict you ten times over. Now you leave my godson and myself alone or I will make sure the ministry hears them too."
"You wouldn't dare!" Malfoy hissed.
"Oh wouldn't I? Come near my family again, Malfoy, and we shall see." Malfoy said not a word, but vanished down the street. As soon as his face disappeared in the bustling crowd, Sirius took Harry by the shoulder and pushed him ahead, into the nearest shop. Harry hardly had time to ask about the confrontation before his senses were attacked with all kinds of strange scents, sights, and sounds, as they entered the apothecary's.
Sirius allowed himself several deep breathes as the shopkeeper provided Harry with his supplies. He enjoyed the look on his godson's face as he ordered several pounds of wolfsbane and handed the school list to the owner.
"Hogwarts, eh?" he cackled, grinning down at Harry with his gummy mouth. More than a few teeth were missing, though he did not seem old. Sirius had a feeling he knew in which war he had lost them.
He was feeling a bit fresher when they the robe shop, their arms now loaded with packages from Madam Malkin's Robes for all Occasions, Flourish and Botts, Cauldrons, and even a surprise from Eeylops Owl Emporium.
Sirius had insisted upon purchasing an owl. Even more, he refused to let Harry pay for her.
"Think of it as the first of ten years of birthday presents I have to make up for." And that was that. There was only one thing left.
"Your wand." Sirius said. Harry noticed a slight shiver in his voice.
"What is it?"
"Well, Mr. Ollivander, he's the best. You'll need to get your wand there, except…"
"Except what?" Sirius smiled shakily.
"To be honest Harry, Ollivander gives me the creeps." Harry laughed and so did Sirius. Together, they approached the old wand shop, which had changed little in the ten years since Sirius had seen it.
Harry stared around him. Sirius was right, there was something in this place that made him uncomfortable. The air was thick with dust and tension. Every few seconds, Harry caught the sparkle of something floating in the dust. Sirius sneezed and jerked Harry out of his dream. They set down their packages and Sirius shifted nervously. Harry ventured forward to examine a long feather quill on the desk before them.
"Ah, Mr. Potter!" The voice was so sudden, so unexpected that Harry jumped back and dropped the quill. He turned and found himself face to face with an old man, older than he'd ever seen before. He had white hair that rose up in a flyaway motion, giving his already eccentric style a certain flare. His eyes were pale, much like Sirius's, in fact they shared a certain look, the look of someone who has seen much of the world and cares very little for it.
"I was wondering when we would see you." Harry swallowed hard as the old man stepped forward and took his hand. He felt the pale eyes skim his forehead and linger over the scar.
"You look remarkably like your father, but your eyes, they are your mothers. It seems that it was only yesterday she was here buying her first wand, ten and a quarter inches, very swishy, willow and unicorn hair. Nice for charm work. " His silvery eyes looked past Harry for the first time and Harry wondered if that strange gaze was now fixed on Sirius.
"But of course, your father preferred something a bit heavier. Mahogany, eleven inches and a bit more power. Excellent for transfigurations. I say he preferred it, yet a wand chooses a wizard, young Harry."
Then he strode past Harry and took Sirius's hand.
"Sirius Black, it has been awhile, hasn't it?" Sirius nodded.
"Redwood and phoenix feather. Eight and a half inches, if I'm not mistaken." Sirius shook his head and reached into his pocket. Harry was surprised to see that he still held the wand in his hands, chipped a bit, worn of course, but Sirius held it as if it were all he had in the world, and who knows, perhaps it was.
Ollivander took the wand and examined it.
"Not bad for being twenty-one years old." He shined it a bit on his robe. "I assume they gave it back after the trial."
"After I was released. Dumbledore got it for me." Sirius's voice was strange, Harry noticed, thick and a bit hoarse. "But we need to get going, so Harry needs his wand." Ollivander turned to face his new client and began to some him up.
" Let's see." Then he turned to the shelf-covered wall and pulled down a box. From the long box, he pulled a wand and handed it to Harry. Harry felt very unsure of what to do and glanced at Sirius. Sirius flicked his wrist and Harry mimicked him. Nothing happened.
"No, not that one." Again and again Harry tried, until the wand pile was growing. Finally, Ollivander paused.
"Perhaps…" he murmured, giving Harry that deep stare again. Harry shifted until the old man took his gaze off him. He vanished behind the very back row where he pulled out a very dusty box, opened it and handed it to Harry.
As soon as the wand touched Harry's fingers, a strange warmth spread all over him. He felt as if he was meeting a long lost friend for the first time.
"Strange." Ollivander muttered as he took the wand and wrapped it.
"Excuse me, what's strange?" Sirius cleared his throat behind him and Harry knew he was anxious to leave.
"It is strange that you should be destined for this wand. The phoenix that gave the core of your wand gave one other, just one other. It is strange that this wand chooses you for its brother gave you that scar."
Harry stared at the old man. He felt Sirius's hand on his shoulder.
"Come on, Harry." He hissed.
" I think we can expect great things from you, Harry Potter." Ollivandr leaned close, and Harry gazed at him with wide eyes. The man's eyes were spackling silver. "For He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things. Terrible, but great."
"Harry, let's go." Sirius hissed through clenched teeth. He seized Harry by the shoulder and dragged him back into the growing darkness.
The sun had set while they were in the shop and Harry noticed that the streets seemed much less crowded. When he asked Sirius about it, Sirius laughed. He seemed much better since they had left the shop.
"They've all gone home, Harry. Now come on, let's have a bite and then get some rest. We go home tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" Harry asked as they dropped their things in their room and hurried downstairs to the pub, where the old innkeeper, Tom, gave them a hearty supper. "Why not tonight?"
"It's a long drive. We're better off just waiting till the sun comes up." Sirius replied, tucking into his meal of Shepard pie and biscuits.
"Won't Remus be worried?" Sirius shook his head.
"Trust me, we're the last things on his mind tonight, now eat."
Harry climbed into bed and pulled the covers to his chin. He steeled himself to ask the question he knew Sirius had been avoiding.
Sirius was pouring himself a glass of water from the bedside table. Then he reached into his bag and pulled out a small vial.
"What's that?" Harry asked. Sirius sniffed it and made a face.
"Just something to help me sleep." He answered and poured a drop into the glass of water. The water swirled and turned black.
"Sirius, could I ask you a question?" Sirius glanced up from his drink and looked questioningly at his godson.
" Where have you been all this time? What does everyone keep talking about? That man said you were an ex-convict." Sirius said not a word, but set the glass down and closed his eyes. It was a long time before he answered.
"Harry, I've made some mistakes. Big mistakes. Those mistakes caused me to loose those who I loved and waste ten years of my life. A lot of people suffered because of my mistakes, but none more than me. I've paid my dues and I've moved on. It's no use living in the past, Harry." His tone spoke plainly and Harry understood all too well. As Sirius downed the glass in one gulp and blew out the candle, Harry realized that the topic was not open for discussion. He sighed and closed his eyes, trying to think of his wonderful new life.
It didn't matter where Sirius had been, he decided, as long as he was here now. With that thought, he rolled over and slipped into sleep.
Remus rushed into the kitchen, wondering what on earth could have made that loud crashing noise. He'd been reading in his study when he heard it. Confused and worried, he now stared around the kitchen, trying to find the source. The first thing hat caught his eye was Sirius, standing at the sink where he'd been doing the dishes, a letter in his hand.
To Remus's horror, his hand was bleeding and the blood was flowing strong as he continued to stare at the letter in his hands. Remus moved closer and saw the remnants of what had been a perfectly good glass in the sink. Sirius seemed to not even notice his injury as he turned to face Remus.
Remus was about to scold him when he saw his face. It was deathly white and the uninjured hand that was holding the letter was shaking like mad.
"What? What is it?" he asked.
"H, Harry…" Sirius managed to get out before he crumbled to the ground. Remus was at his side in a moment and helped his friend sit up. Hurriedly, he grabbed a dishcloth and wrapped it around Sirius's hand, trying to stop the bleeding.
"What about Harry?" Sirius shook his head and handed Remus the letter. He gasped in horror as he read it.
I am sorry to convey such terrible news to you so close to Harry's return. It would seem that Voldemort had found a follower inside our staff. This person had been persuaded to steal a very valuable treasure, left in my care by an old friend. Harry, however, discovered this and tried to stop him. He succeeded, but not at any small risk. Sadly, I regret t say that Harry has been injured. It is my opinion that you should return here immediately.
Remus took several deep breaths and glanced at Sirius. Sirius's hand was clenched, even as Remus tried to bandage it. The look in his eye was harsh and his breathing, hard. Remus knew that look. He knew that whoever was on the receiving end of that look was about to pay dearly.
"Professor?" Sirius shouted as he hurled himself into the headmaster's office. Dumbledore looked up from his desk and smiled.
"Ah, Sirius. I was just expecting you."
"Harry, where's Harry?" It was obvious there was one thing on his former pupil's mind.
"He's in the infirmary, sleeping. I expect you wish to see him?" Sirius nodded and Dumbledore led the way. All the way down the familiar steps, Sirius's heart pounded. When they arrived, Dumbledore pointed to the single occupied bed.
"He's been awake for a day or two, Poppy insisted he get some sleep. He's worn out from telling his story to all his friends." He smiled. " But you're welcome to sit by him." Sirius nodded.
"That would be fine." Sighing, he pulled up a chair and took Harry's still minute hand in his own large one. So enwrapped with his tiny brave godson was he, that he didn't even notice when Dumbledore slipped out of the room.
He sat there for a long time, cursing himself for not telling Harry sooner. Had he told him, perhaps he would have been more prepared for this.
Harry moaned and slowly opened his eyes. He smiled when he saw his godfather.
"Sirius?" Sirius smiled. He wondered if this is what it felt like to be a father, to take joy in simply seeing the face of the child he loved.
"Hello Harry, how are you feeling?" he asked. Harry sat up a bit and smiled lazily.
"Alright, I suppose. When did you get here?" He looked better just from seeing his godfather.
"Juts a few hours ago. Dumbledore owled and I came as soon as I could." Harry smiled.
"I'm glad you're here, Sirius." But then he frowned a bit. Sirius felt a shiver go up his back. Something was not right.
"Harry, what's wrong?" He asked. Harry did not answer. Instead, he glanced down at picked at an invisible speck of fluff on his blanket.
"It's nothing," he said quietly after a few moments of intense silence.
"If it was nothing, it wouldn't bother you." Sirius protested. He thought hard. "Alright, let's play a game then, shall we?" Harry glanced at him, confused, his eyebrow raised and looking heart achingly like James.
"What kind of a game?" He asked suspiciously.
"A guessing game. If I guess the correct answer, you have to tell me. Alright?" Slowly Harry nodded.
Sirius sat back and studied his godson. What could be troubling him? Something with Voldemort, obviously. His letters home had never lacked the excitement and wonder of an eleven-year-old boy, even one who was hunted by Lord Voldemort. Maybe something the dark lord had said in the midst of their battle. He frowned. That had to be it.
"Did someone say something to you?" he asked. Harry slowly nodded. "Voldemort?" Again, he nodded, eyes glued to the blanket, hands trembling slightly. Sirius took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. It wasn't working. His temper was steadily rising and he wished to God he had that monster's neck in his hands that instant.
"Did he say something about Lily and James? God, that bastard! I'll kill him, whatever he said, Harry. It isn't true, your Mum and Dad were-"
"It wasn't about them!" Harry yelled, interrupting him. Sirius stared at him, confused. "It was about you!" Harry turned away, his shoulders shaking. Sirius had begun to shake as well. Had he told him, told him about the thirteen murders, the ten years in Azkaban, the whispers and rumors that circulated at the very whisper of his name?
"What did he say?" his voice was had and ready for anything.
"I don't remember." Came the childish reply. Sirius groaned and turned Harry over to face him again.
"If you didn't remember, then it wouldn't matter. Now tell me." Harry shook his head.
"You didn't tell me." He whispered. "I'm your godson and you didn't tell me."
"There are many things I didn't and will not tell you, Harry." Sirius replied.
"Why?" Harry asked, his voice high. " Why not? Do you think I'm not old enough? That I'll get scared and cry? You don't scare me, Sirius. I've seen too much."
"You've seen nothing!" was Sirius's sharp reply. " Nothing compared to what your Dad and I grew up with. The things I did in my past were considered light in their time. I saw my Dad murdered with I was just a few years older than you, Harry. Not many things shake me anymore."
"He said you were a murderer." Harry's voice was soft. Sirius frowned.
"He said you were a murderer. That you killed muggles, and that," he paused and closed his eyes, rocking ever so slight," and that, that, you killed my parents." He opened his eyes and stared at Sirius through wet lashes. "Tell me he was lying Sirius, please."
Sirius took a deep shaky breath. This was it, this was his judgment day.
"Do you know what the Fedilius Charm is, Harry?" he shook his head. "it's a complex spell in which the a secret is hidden inside the soul of someone. That secret can never be discovered unless the secret keeper decides to divulge it." He sighed.
"James and Lily wanted me, they asked me. but I couldn't do it. so we agreed on Peter. I told them the truth afterwards. That we had switched, that it wasn't me. But they didn't believe me. Not even Remus. " he tried to keep the harsh sob inside, but somehow it found it's way out.
"Then I went after Peter. It was all I could do. James and Lily, gone and you off to the muggles. They wouldn't let me keep you, even then. He shouted for the whole street to hear that I'd killed Lily and James, then he blew it up with the wand behind his back and vanished. Made it look like I'd done it."
"He said you'd laughed. That you stood in the middle of all those bodies and laughed even when they came to take you away." Harry's voice was small, yet Sirius heard it clear as a bell.
He closed his eyes.
Blood, smoke, screams, everything surrounding him, Peter, gone. My one alibi, vanished into the dust. I hear a cold hard laugh. It takes me a long moment to realize it is myself. But I cannot stop. Everything is destroyed. They'll never believe me. Hands, grabbing my arms, my shoulder, roughly, dragging me to the ground, but still I laugh.
Sirius shook his head, dragging himself out of his memory. Harry was staring at him, bewildering and not a little frightened of the words that just came pouring out of his godfather's mouth. By the look on his face, Harry wondered if he even knew he had been speaking them.
"Harry, I.." Sirius began. Harry shook his head.
"Just tell me one thing." Harry remembered Remus telling him once, that Sirius could not lie, not with his eyes. "Did you mean to kill my parents?"
"Never!" Sirius said sharply. "I loved Lily and James. They were my only family. I would never betray them, or you, Harry." He reached out and gently touched Harry's flyaway hair. And Harry knew by the bright eyes that stared down at him that he was not lying. And he nodded. Sirius smiled gently and pulled Harry into a tight hug. Harry wrapped his arms around his godfather and hung on.
He might not be much. But right now, Sirius Black was all he had.
Two weeks later Remus groaned as Sirius leaned far out over the tracks.
"Padfoot, the sign will tell us when they're coming. There is no need to throw yourself onto the tracks." Sirius straightened and smiled at Remus. There was a certain light about him lately, he seemed much less confined and worried, as if a great weight had been taken off his shoulders.
"There's the train!" he hollered and rushed to greet Harry as he flew off, and jumped into his godfather's arms, babbling the whole time about his year. As they exited, Harry waved goodbye to a bushy brunette who smiled back and a red head who reminded him a great deal of Arthur Weasly, whom he had meet only a few times.
The whole way home, Harry did not stop talking and Sirius did not stop grinning. In fact, he fell asleep with a smile on his face.
Remus smiled too and closed the door to the living room, leaving godfather and godson to sleep. Only a year, he thought, and so much as changed. If only Lily and James could see us now. He glanced at the framed picture of that wedding day so long ago.
James and Lily in the foreground, Sirius on James's side, making a face, he on Lily's side, smiling gently, and even Peter, grinning in the background, a champagne glass in his hand. He closed his eyes and listened to the long forgotten voices, whispering in his mind.
"We'll always be together, Moony. Marauder's creed, remember. " James's voice of sixteen years gone whispered. Then five voices, one blending deep into one another began to recite." Together forever. Never apart. Maybe at distance, but never at heart."