I would like to thank all of you for your beautiful and helpful reviews. I reread them whenever I feel my muse fleeing. Your support and suggestions mean an incredible lot to me. I apologise for the delays, but I work on borrowed laptops now, and Engineering isn't as easy as I hoped it would be. But, as someone once said- we pray not for easier times, but to be stronger men.
Onto the story then! If my facts are correct, and I assume they are, then this is the first time Harry's meeting Sirius after the incidents of the third year. Also, I apologise in advance for any Sirius-serious puns that might spring up- they can't be helped. My version of Sirius might surprise you a bit, but I wanted to keep him a major character in the story, unlike canon where his only role was to cause emotional pain to Harry and waste his own potential as a character.
On a personal note- and this goes out to my girlfriend who left a small but precious review, the feeling is mutual, honey.
The chilled wind, filled with piercing snowflakes, buffeted against their shivering forms as Harry spotted the abnormally large black dog, emerging from the scrubs at the snow covered foot of the large rocky hill. It barked once, to show recognition, and then turned around to trot upwards, jumping with some effort from one rock to another, before finally disappearing into the shrubbery.
Harry paused for a moment, making sure to stare hard at his surroundings. Behind him, Hermione did the same. Finding the road to be wholly deserted, the two started off at a brisk pace, halting only when they came across a difficult twist in the non-existent trail the dog left behind. If it weren't for the merry barks the dog uttered all along, they would have lost their way upwards.
Halfway up the snow covered path, it began to rain.
Loose bits of rocks started giving way to the piling mud and snow, making Harry slip almost twice, and Hermione express quite a bit of anxiety. Thunder cackled over them, an untamed shard bellowing hoarsely to the heavens, echoing in the rolling, raging clouds above. The dog and its mad excitement were lost in the downpour, and the mammal had to retrace its path to the young magicals several times to correct their path.
Harry was drenched to the skin, his sweater hanging rather wetly around him, and behind him Hermione's shared the same fate. He couldn't feel her hand, clutched tightly in his though it was, and the way he was shivering violently, he wondered how she was faring. He was worried if wherever his Godfather was taking him was too far, she would get sick.
Her sickness or lack thereof, was the last of his worries though. This was his first trip out of Hogwarts, and even though the storm had ruined the Hogsmeade weekend, and most of the students had been confined to the safety of the castle, Harry had managed to obtain a signed note from Dumbledore for the trip.
And Harry could feel it. Something had clicked- somewhere. Something had shifted- somewhere. In the dynamics of the world, the way the gears turned in the Wizarding society, a wheel had disembarked from the machine, and tumbled off into the abyss. It was as if a seal had been made. Something had been set.
The entrance to the cave was barely noticeable, draped with a curtain of thick moss and vines, and if it wasn't for the long haired handsome man standing at its mouth, holding the barricade apart for the two of them, they wouldn't have seen it. Harry didn't even bother entering inside. He crushed Sirius Orion Black into a hug as Hermione rushed into the safety of the cave.
Sirius smelled fresh, which surprised Harry, and after the longest moment, as he stepped back, he realised he looked much healthier than when he'd last seen him. He seemed to have put on twenty pounds at the least. His shoulder length hair hung in neat locks around his freshly shaven face. Adorning his face was a thin moustache that curled demurely at its ends. He wore, much to Harry's shock, a neatly pressed plain white shirt, tucked primly into a slim black trouser, and a black jacket over it all. He looked rather fetching, albeit a bit weak and sick, almost as if he hadn't slept for months.
Harry stared for a few moments; behind him Hermione was positively gaping. They clearly weren't expecting the Prisoner of Azkaban to recover so fast after a fourteen* year spell in the harsh prison.
(*fourteen because I shifted the story's timeline by an year)
Sirius smiled brightly at Harry, though Harry felt he was panting heavier than a healthy person should have. Maybe, Harry thought, he was still recovering. The wizard pulled out a wand, and cast a good measure of warming and drying charms over the two of them, and waved them deeper into the cave, where a bright blue fire burned in a niche in the cave floor. "Saw your photographs at the Ball, Harry Potter, and thought I'd pick a leaf from your notebook. Your mother would have wept tears of joy! Can't say I'm any less proud!"
Harry stood another second gawking and then remembered he had to speak. "Wha-...The Ball! Uh yeah...I ...um..thanks." Then he reprimanded himself mentally for appearing like a fool in front of Sirius. His nervousness was granted, he was meeting his Godfather properly for the first time, without a contingent of dementors out for their souls- the first authority figure in his life who was related to him and who deeply cared for him, but for the same reason, he didn't want Sirius to think he was a fool. He took a deep breath, his eyes landing on his girlfriend, who was watching him pensively.
"You remember Hermione Granger, my best friend?" He extended a hand towards the witch, gesturing at her to come forward. She stepped forward uncertainly, extending a polite greeting towards the elder wizard. "Hello, Mr. Black. It's a delight to see you again."
Sirius looked from one of them to the other, the smile slowly fading from his face. "Uh...Is something wrong? Did I do something?" No one answered, instead, they stared at each other for some time, and lightning rang out in the heavens, amplifying the silence left in its wake, before Sirius realised what the problem was.
"Why are the two of you acting like this? Of course I remember Hermione! She saved my life! And why on earth would you call me Mr Black, Hermione? You remind me of my father! What is wrong?"
They stared around for another moment, before Harry relaxed. The tension left his shoulders with a sigh, and he gave Sirius a slow smile. "I'm sorry for being so daft...it's just that- I've never done this kind of thing before."
Behind him, Hermione tittered, and Harry knew she had caught him. She knew what he had tried so hard to hide. The tension within him was his scar from the Dursleys, and somewhere within him, he had been afraid Sirius would hate him. He gave her a look that said it all, and turned his attention back towards Sirius, who was smiling at him.
He studied the man for a few seconds. "You- um, don't take this the wrong way, but you look-" "Hot?" Sirius asked, cutting him off with a dashing grin. "-healthy. Uh, I was going to say healthy. I thought you were on the run, in hiding and whatnot. I'm not complaining, mind you, but this is a pleasant surprise."
Sirius chuckled loudly, "Well, I am Sirius Black, of the Most Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. I have a reputation to uphold." He took Harry by the shoulders then, looking at him like a blind man seeing the sun for the first time.
"I must deeply apologise for saying this, but you remind me so much of James...Merlin...you're his splitting image- except for the eyes...like I said...you have y-" "My mother's eyes. I know..." Harry gave him a tired smile, nervously running a hand through his hair. Sirius nodded with a smile, and the pride that shone through his grey eyes in that moment overwhelmed Harry, and all he could do was return the hug that Sirius offered him.
They moved to stand around the blue flames, and Sirius conjured three rather plush chairs for them to lounge on, before pulling a bottle of amber coloured liquid from the dark corners of the cave. He gave them an apologetic smile, "I hope you don't mind, my constitution hasn't improved much at all, and this is something I have sorely missed in my years at Azkaban."
They nodded their heads to show their assent, and sat down on the chairs, making themselves comfortable. It seemed like an eerie new world inside the cave, the thunder of the storm raging outside a dull roar in their ears, a cold breeze gnawing at their bones, and the muted light perforating the green membrane of moss and ferns. The cave was full of solace, its tender silence kissing their ears, isolating them from the world.
A few moments passed in companionable silence in which Sirius poured himself a small amount of scotch in a crystal glass and then turned to them with a smirk on his face. "You see dear, just the other day, I found myself rather bored, and my butler provided me with a series of rather...how do you say...teenage magazines... and the like. Now," his tone turned particularly smug, and Harry sensed something was coming, "imagine my surprise, when I saw a rather racy photograph, and I distinctly remember seeing your lips joined to another set, and quite a fetching set too. What have you," he turned towards Hermione, "to say for yourself, Hermione dear?" His tone was proof enough that they weren't in any sort of trouble, on the contrary, he looked rather proud of Harry
Hermione, on the other hand, sputtered like a trout, and Sirius burst into laughter, though he was coughing within a few seconds. All humour fled Harry as his coughs turned rather bark like, and leaning over, he spat blood at the side of the cave. When the ailment stopped, Sirius took a long sip from his crystal tumbler, emptying it in one smooth gulp, then gave a gentle cough before finally quieting down again.
The worry in Harry's eyes shone like a light house. "Sirius, are you alright? You shouldn't be out in your condition! I think-"
"Ah! Come now Harry! You make it sound like I am pregnant!" He chuckled at his own joke, and though Harry smiled a bit, he couldn't appreciate the humour. Seeing his distress, Sirius turned serious, "I'm fine Harry. Besides I wasted fourteen years of my life in Azkaban. Time I should have spent with you. I'm not going to waste anymore of it sleeping at home. I'll sleep when I'm dead, Harry, I'll sleep when I'm dead."
"Are you sure you should be drinking that, Sirius?" Hermione asked, clearly disapproving of the alcohol Sirius was pouring himself again. Sirius smiled at her sagely. "Tell me dear child, where is a ship safest at?"
Hermione gave him a confused look before taking a moment to think about his question. "In their harbours?"
Sirius beamed at her, shivering slightly in the cold, and moved his chair a bit closer to the fire. "Exactly! Ships are safe- safest- in their harbours, my dear." He took a sip, letting in a pause, "But that is not what they are made for." He took another sip. "Are they?"
Hermione pursed her lips, locking like she didn't quite agree with the man's logic, but she decided to let it go. But Sirius continued. "They're made for riding out storms and hurricanes, for wrecking onto the shores of distant myriad lands. They're made for inspiring awe, for conquering oceans." He was staring into the flames now, fingers tight around the tumbler. "So were we..." The last part he added in a hushed whisper, voice shaking, and eyes clouded with something dark, but the silence in the cave ensured that they all heard it. Etched upon his face were regret, remorse and frustration. Guilt. Anger. Gloom.
As Harry and Hermione stared at him, he seemed to realise he had wandered off, and he shook his head, as if pulling himself out of a daze. "Sorry about that." And then loudly, "So! Congratulations are in order!" And as the two students thanked him, Harry wondered how much Sirius had lost in one swoop- friends, non-existent family, and above all- his freedom.
They talked for a few moments about inconsequential things, before Sirius asked the unavoidable question. "Before I say anything Harry, know this that I am the proudest Godfather in existence, okay? I can't believe you're sitting here with me after what happened in the first task. But you are, and that speaks volumes about the kind of Godchild I have. But...I must ask this...and do not for one moment think that I can't be trusted- because you are all I have to live for now, Harry. And I will not forgive myself if I fail you once again. Where did you learn all of that? Dumbledore's been in touch. He was...very informative about you. I guess he's trying to make up for his failings. He told me..." He paused for a sip of his scotch, "He told me about the Dursleys, seems like a visit is in order. He also made me aware of the extent of your knowledge about the Dark Lord and his activities. I feel I must express my discomfort and worry. And though I have no right to ask this of you, I wish you would come clean to me."
Harry stared the man hard in the eyes, letting the seconds tick by. "You're not going anywhere Sirius, leave the Dursleys alone." He got up from his chair, choosing to stand by the mouth of the cave as he talked. "They're simply not worth it." He sighed, and when he spoke, the change in his demeanour was palpable. He'd become a vessel of his time- his voice bore the years his life had added into another dimension, where his body did not age, but his mind and his eyes and his voice did. "As for Dumbledore, he's a meddling fool. I respect him, but he's- he's...he has made his share of mistakes. You've got a clean slate Sirius. Please try and keep it that way." He turned to stand against the rough wall, staring back inside at the blue flames.
"Okay. I...just...just talk to me Harry. You and me- you and- we're our own team Harry. I know what's coming. Alright? And I'll die before I let you go unprepared into the hell that is about to be unleashed. I don't care what Dumbledore says...He's got the Order- they've got their own agenda. The ministry is doing nothing. The Dark Lord on the other hand, has been extremely busy. And you, Harry, I know you've been preparing-hell, after the shows you've been putting the entire Wizarding World knows it. So just let me in okay?
"I don't ask for your complete trust, I know that is a hard thing to earn, but let me in a bit. Just crack the doors open just a tiny little bit, and we'll go a long way Harry. I know I can never fill in the void James left...and I wouldn't dare to...but I want to be the next best thing. I believe I love you more than I would have loved my own son Harry, you're all I have now, so know this that you can trust me with anything and everything."
Everything was silent for sometime then, and the storm sang its own song of wrath outside, while Sirius waited in horrible anticipation for Harry to respond to his heartfelt monologue. But Harry's response was more frightening than anything he could have imagined. He stood in silence for minutes, eyes shut tightly. And then, just when the silence had become unbearable, he heard it. A soft quiet sob escaped Harry's clenched mouth, and a fat tear rolled out of his equally clenched eyes. Before Sirius could react, and even before Harry's own fingers could reach up to wipe the tear away, Hermione was upon him.
Gentle arms took him into an embrace he melted right into, and he cried quietly upon her shoulder like a wave breaking down upon a rock. For the first time in his life, Harry Potter felt loved, and if gentle words from a man he was meeting for the second time in his life could have such an effect, Hermione wondered with enormous hate what kind of life the emotional aspect of Harry Potter had led. She had heard from him, of course, she knew the story- but she couldn't know what he had felt in those moments of hate and desolation, when all he had to comfort himself was the spiders in his cupboard that would ease the hateful silence with their skittering. And so she took him into her arms even as they slid down the wall to sit against it, and gave of her what he needed, as Sirius stood behind them, a few steps away, uncertain and horrified, unsure of his role in the life of the child time had deemed fit enough to make a man. It was too early, he thought, and I've been a fucking idiot.
She cooed to him, whispering words in his ears Sirius couldn't hear. Sirius Black felt like an intruder, for it seemed something too pure to find in two people so young. But Harry had already regained control of himself- he'd promised himself he wouldn't cry, at least not when people could see him. His grip on Hermione, however, didn't loosen. He raised his head as she wiped his tears, and hugged her to himself, kissing her forehead in gratitude when she pulled back. She gave him a smile to remind him that his world was alright.
"I'm sorry about that- I just...uh...that was the first time someone has ever said that to me...and I know I'm being really silly, but I...-" He quietened after that, voice hoarse, and Hermione gave him a kiss on his cheek, before turning around to sit with her back against him, and he wrapped his arms around her..
"No, no...see this- this is completely fine! Harry- I appreciate you letting me in, okay? And I always want you to remember this, Harry, no matter where you are, or what you do- even if you think you've done something horrible, I'll always have your back. We're a team now okay? The best team in the world!"
It took him a second, but Harry found himself grinning at that, and he nodded at Sirius to show his appreciation. They receded into silence for a few comfortable minutes, and when Hermione shivered, Harry pulled her in tighter, receiving a smile in return. Sirius just sat in his chair, watching the two of them fondly.
"I don't really know how this started Sirius- I mean, I know what started this, but the why is still a mystery to me. It turns out- I've got the lucky end of Dementia." He ignored the sharp intake of breath from his Godfather. "And...from somewhere- I...it was probably the killing curse that left it all behind...I guess- Hermione's still looking into it- but I've got His memories. Lord Voldemort. Right up to the point he died- it isn't complete yet- there are huge spaces in between- his later years...and- and his death. I know Lord Voldemort really really well."
And Harry talked. Moments passed as he told Sirius, without jumping into the finer details. By the end of it, Sirius had drunk away half of the bottle. He looked like he was going to be sick. With trembling hands, he conjured a pair of crystal glasses, and filling them with a little amount of the amber liquid, floated them over to the two of them.
Harry stared at the tumbler for a long time. Testosterone won over logic, and maybe a glass of scotch was probably the last thing that would try to kill him. Ignoring his disapproving girlfriend with a smile, Harry reached forward and took the glass. Hermione, stared at the glass in his hand for a few seconds, and then with a huff, grabbed her own.
Sirius let loose a whistle, and Hermione turned to glare at him. "You're rubbing off on her Harry."
But Harry wasn't listening. He was staring wide eyed at Hermione, who was smirking at him. It was the first time he was seeing that smirk on her face, and it terrified him in the best way possible. He suddenly felt a lot more alive than he was a second before. A smile spread on his face, his eyes locked with hers, and a silent challenge passed- you daren't!
She brought the tip of the glass to her lips, eyes never leaving his, watch me!
And she drank it all down in one gulp. Behind them, Sirius burst into applause.
"She's a keeper, Harry!" Sirius crowed as Hermione burst into a series of coughs, eyes watering slightly.
"I know." Harry replied solemnly, smiling as he drank his own alcohol.
They sat in silence for a while, before Harry turned to look at Sirius. "Hey, I've kept up my end, its time for you to tell me your story now! You don't really look like someone who has spent fourteen years in Azkaban- not that I'm complaining."
Sirius laughed lightly, setting his glass aside. His eyes raked over Harry and his girlfriend once, before he crossed his legs and said, "Well, I am Sirius Black, of the most Ancient and most Noble House of the Blacks!" He struck a mighty pose in the chair, head turned to the side as he twirled his moustache. They sniggered at him, and he laughed a little too, before coughing again. "Oh...well...before...before that night, before- before the night your parents died, your father and I had qualified for the Vigilum Vis...That's the Special Forces team that works under the ICW, er- my point is...I was well respected...despite what my parents thought of me...or the rest of the purebloods...I had contacts...I travelled the world... I was...I was renowned...they knew who Sirius Black was...and dark wizards feared us. They feared James Potter and Sirius Black. We were good.
"And then- then they hunted us down- the big bad Lord Voldemort and his gang of clowns!" He spat out the name, acid on his tongue. The rage was evident on his face, red and twisted as it was, still handsome in the dim light. "They made James go into hiding! James Potter! Of the Noble and Ancient House of Potter! They made me go into hiding! The hunters became the hunted...Disgrace!"
His eyes had that faraway look again...and Harry wondered how much the man in front of him wished Harry was his father. Sirius was breathing heavily, but as his eyes fell on Harry, he returned back to the present. "I still have those habits I suppose...I can't go on looking like a homeless person forever now, can I? But let's not talk about me Harry. Let us focus on you, okay?
"So...this...this war that is coming soon Harry...Dumbledore wouldn't want me telling you this I suppose...but fuck Dumbledore! He's not making the rules anymore. There is no greater good this time. Just us. It's every faction for itself. Dumbledore will have started the Order again- and I doubt he'll let you in on it- if he does...credit to him then. If I were you, I wouldn't worry about it- I'll be keeping you posted.
"Also, Albus told me about the house the two of you bought, and I pitched in my share. Its better warded than ever now- I performed some of the wards myself- some of them are goblin wards- they're expensive- but they will keep us safe. We've got two properties now- the house is yours and Dumbledore's...but mine belongs to us Harry. Just us. We'll be playing our own game."
Harry stared at Sirius for a long minute, he rather liked the way the man said 'we' instead of 'you' or 'I'. He nodded back at him, finding speech a bit difficult. It was probably the alcohol, but some of it could have been Sirius' overwhelming love for him.
They sat in the cave till the sun started its descent, and Sirius regaled Harry with tales of his father's time at Hogwarts. The cloudbank had passed over the summit, and the storm seemed to have abated slightly. Harry sensed the late hour, and very reluctantly, he recognized the need to return to Hogwarts. He glanced at Hermione, who seemed a bit drunk, and burst into chuckles at the wild look on her face. Realizing he had to be the adult, he pulled her up along with him, and turned to face Sirius.
"Leaving already, Harry?" The elder wizard asked, his voice a bit ruffled. It was then that Harry realized they had drunk away the whole bottle. A bit worried now, he mentally assessed Sirius' condition. "You know I don't want to leave, Sirius. Are you sure you can make it back to- to your house?"
"Eh? I'll be fine, Harry. I'll be fine." He looked at Harry for a moment, eyes full of nostalgia, and then that turned into pride. Harry could see it, feel it emanating from those silver orbs. "You be careful, Harry Potter. A pact has been made with the lesser devils. That is the reason behind this dreary weather. Soon- soon Harry, a pact will be made with the greater ones. The King of the devils dances again- and the mad, mad men will wage war to keep him dancing. So be careful, and don't you worry about this lad here," he said, thumping his chest lightly, "the Blacks take care of their own. And you're my family now."
He walked forwards slowly, took Harry by the shoulders, and hugged him.
"Don't kiss my boyfriend."
Harry let loose a short bark of laughter. He stepped away from Sirius to look at Hermione. Her hair was a mess- eyes red and drunk, and hands on her waist. She was looking at them accusingly. For some reason, Harry thought she looked ridiculously tempting. Beside him, Sirius laughed gently.
"Take care of her too, Harry. She's a rare one. And if you ever- ever, need a broom cupboard...ahem! You know who to write to, don't you, kid?"
"Very well then, Harry. We'll talk more when I see you again. It's been a long day...eh, could have been longer. Write to me if you need my help, though I doubt you will. Farewell Harry."
Harry watched his Godfather wrap his arms around himself, and took Hermione's small hand in his own. His eyes scanned Sirius one last time, "I'll tell you all about broom cupboards when I see you again. Stay safe and free." Hermione wrapped her arms around him, and Harry could smell the alcohol on her. She nuzzled against him, and Harry inhaled against her hair.
"Devil kings and their mad men," he said to Sirius as they stepped out of the cave together, "the thing about Fire, Sirius, the thing about fire is- it burns them all."
Sirius put a hand on his shoulder, "Even the sane ones Harry. Fire does burn them all."
Harry's eyes were dark when he looked at Sirius for the last time that day, "Even the sane ones Sirius. But sane men do not dance. Devils and mad men do."
I could have written more- but this felt like an ideal place to end the chapter. So, what did you think of this Sirius? I tried to get him to stick to canon, while also integrating a few of my own elements.