Disclaimer: all characters belong to J K Rowling and Warner brothers.
Story dedicated to Moppet Poppet, Cheating Death's 500th reviewer!
a/n a strange title? Well, it was suppose to be 'Of all the Western Stars' but that seemed unnecessarily long. It's named after a verse by Tennyson,
"'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die…
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
-Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson
which seemed to reflect Sirius' goal quite well, his desire to succeed, his impatience, and the injustice against him.
Of Western Stars
Chapter one - of blurry pictures
It was cold.
An icy cold that creped under your skin and snapped your veins one by one. It twisted the very flesh in your body and froze bones stiff. It exuded from every inch of the walls, and one by one, gripped the minds of its prisoners and dragged them into oblivion.
But one man was different. He was silent, watching the others with clouded blue eyes with something akin to boredom. Ever now and then, his face would contort in anger and rage like the others, but he would always calm down again and return to his watching. But then, one day, he just stopped.
Sirius had been deaf and blind to the world around him for the past few days; he hadn't eaten, he hadn't slept. He stared at a crumpled page of newspaper, only a few days old, but frequent handling had worn it into a dull, faded brown. He gripped it so tightly that his fingers were white and trembling, clutching it as if it were a lifeline.
A faded picture was barely discernable. It was an image of a boy, only six years of age but looking years younger, with untamed hair and brilliant green eyes. He was short and thin for his age, looking smaller than he really was in oversized clothes. He sat on a secluded park bench, face away from the camera as if he was looking for someone. Then, slowly, he turned around to stare back at the man, eyes wide but oddly shy.
Sirius smiled, running his fingers lightly over the blurred picture.
"Harry," he whispered, his voice hoarse and raw with disuse. "Do you still remember me?"
Harry didn't respond, only continuing to stare back at him innocently. But Sirius only smiled wider. It was a rare luck that such a picture came to him. The Minister, during his tour of the prison grounds, offered the stack of newspaper to him at his request. It was only when he was flipping through it, did he notice a small article on the second page with a fuzzy image. Someone had taken a picture, and belatedly discovered a small boy in the background.
The Boy Who Lived spotted in a muggle park
The article had captured him immediately, and Sirius read it so many times that he could recite it in his sleep. Harry had been sighted, despite all the effort that Dumbledore took to keep him hidden from the magical community. His exact whereabouts where unknown, but Sirius knew exactly where he was. How could he forget, after all the times Lily had pointed out her sister's house on the map with a slightly hurt smile?
Now, Sirius wanted nothing more than to be there, with the little boy in the deserted park. He would give everything he still had just to sit beside him for a few short minutes. Sirius smiled, running his fingers over the picture again.
A new person suddenly burst into the frame, a fat man with an overflowing stomach. He stomped over the grass with a demeanor that exuded impatience, disgust, and arrogance. Sirius blinked in surprise; over the past few hours that he stared at it, he had never seen the man. Harry instantly froze with fear, and the man clamped a round hand harshly over the boy's frail arm. He tugged him off the bench, walking so quickly that Harry fell and dragged across the grass, the two disappearing from the picture.
Sirius growled, an angry boiling inside him hotter than anything he could remember. His grasp tightened over the picture, straining it so hard that it ripped in half. Sirius flung the remains on the ground, turning towards the window of his cell. He shook the unyielding bars with a mad desperation.
"Let me out!" he shouted. But his voice was lost with the others. "Let me out. Let me out! Let me out!!"
Sirius took several unsteady steps forward, the entire world swaying in his vision. The water from the river still clung to his fur, and no matter how hard he shook himself, he could still feel the dampness against his skin. Strange, even in Akzaban, he never felt this cold.
But the moment he stepped onto the dry shore, Sirius felt a burst of euphoria flood his senses. It was like the first time he rode on a broom. He drew a deep breath, the air clean and fresh for the first time in six years. Sirius laughed, a strange sound for a dog to produce, but he laughed nevertheless. He was free!
Sirius made a small leap of joy, but instantly his weak limbs trembled under the weight. He tired to stay standing, but he knew he was fighting a losing battle. The strain of swimming across the river was hitting him harder than ever. But Sirius forced his legs to move, the canine paws tingling with the strange sensation of finally moving after years of lethargy.
He wasn't sure how long he walked, his mind was a smudge of muffled thoughts and his vision was growing darker by the minute. But the next time he dragged himself into perception, he was nearing a patch of black where the grass abruptly stopped. Large boxes on wheels were lined side by side. On closer inspection, Sirius realized they were trucks, still in the process of loading with their back compartments open.
"Where's this one to?"
Sirius snapped around, instinctively pulling back in the shadows. A man drifted into view, reeking so strongly of cigarettes that Sirius' acute senses made him sneeze.
"Little Whinging," said another gruffly. "And you better not get lost this time. That was the most pathetic thing I ever…"
… Little Whinging …
A little boy too small to be six and a half years of age sat in the middle of a deserted park, his legs dangling some distance from the ground from his position on the bench. His eyes were an unusual emerald green, his hair stood in every direction imaginable. His clothes were tattered and worn and looked like they belonged someone as wide as he was tall, but certainly not to the thin child.
Most children would be chattering nosily or swinging their legs impatiently as they sat, but Harry was perfectly still. He fingered the bag of cat food sitting beside him, trying to debate whether or not he should go back to Mrs. Figg. The Dursleys were out that day, and they left him with the senile old woman. She had sent him out with some money for supplies the moment he arrived, but now, he was hesitant to return. Mrs. Figg was not very comfortable company.
The wind rustled the leaves gently, ruffling his hair as it brushed past.
Abruptly, Harry stood. There was something drawing him to the bushes behind the bench; invisible hands guiding him. Harry pushed past a tall row of shrubs, and stilled.
A large dog, probably as large as himself, with dirty and tangled coal black fur, laid in a patch of grass secluded from sight. Even through the long, thick fur, Harry could make out the ridges of the animal's ribs and the skinniness of its frame. Instinct told him that he should be afraid of large, unfamiliar dogs, but somehow, Harry couldn't ignore a strange sense of familiarity that exuded from it. He knew it somehow. The dog wouldn't hurt him.
"Umm… hello?" Harry said softly, feeling a bit foolish. But he hadn't met many dogs before, and he really didn't know what else to say. He approached it tentatively, laying a small hand on its muzzle.
The dog flinched under his touch, jolting awake and lips drawn back in growl. Harry scrambled to his feet, suddenly feeling very much afraid. But the dog froze when it caught sight of him, eyes widening with something akin to surprise. For a long time, it never stirred, examining Harry's face with human-like fascination. But to a little boy faced with a dog almost his height, it was unnerving. All the calm familiarity of the animal vanished the instant the dog awoke.
It's going to eat me! Harry thought desperately as he took a step back.
Cautiously, the dog took a step forward. With a burst of fear and desperation, Harry spun around, scuttling for the safety of the park. But a brusque force knocked into him, throwing him against the ground. Harry's already fragile glasses dislodged from his face and everything blurred into a wild smear of black. Harry made a strangled noise, groping blindly for his glasses.
But he almost cried out when the world came back into focus. The dog was right above him, one of his paws against his shoulder pinned him the grass. Its face breathing heavily near his, razor sharp teeth flashing in the light. He trashed weakly, but the dog was too strong. It lowered it's head and Harry tensed.
It was going to eat him! He was going to die!
Harry whimpered, bringing his hands over his face defensively.
Any normal seven year old would be screaming, but the years of confinement and neglect trained him never to cry out. Harry shut his eyes tightly, anticipating the pain.
A soft pressure against his forehead. The touch was warm and gentle, oddly reminiscent of the affectionate touch of a parent.
Harry's eyes snapped open. The dog stared down at him, lips pulled back in what looked suspiciously like a smile. It nudged his cheek and whined.
Harry watched it in bewilderment. "You're not going to kill me?" he asked shakily.
The dog made a low growl in his throat, and Harry impulsively drew himself into a tight ball. But he was surprised when the weight on his shoulder disappeared, the dog backing away. Harry pulled himself into a sitting position, scooting against the trunk of a tree, eyes wide. The animal whined again and wagged his tail, trying hard to look harmless. Timidly, it moved forward, resting its shaggy head against Harry's shoulder and turning its strange blue eyes to him.
Harry was stiff, the recent shock still running through his mind. He flinched when the dog pressed its moist muzzle against his cheek. Gritting his teeth, Harry mentally braced himself for the familiar pain that came all too often.
"No! Stay away!" Harry choked out desperately, covering his face with his hands.
The dog drew back as if burned. Harry scrambled to his feet, and without looking back, fled.
Short, short chapter. And not very well written. I have a very, very, very, very hard time with characterizing a seven year-old. Do you remember how you thought at seven years old? Urg!! Bad chapter bad writing. ACK!
Is this story making any sense? I was afraid the beginning had just too much descriptions that bogged down the entire plot.