Copyright notice: The "Harry Potter" world belongs to J. K. Rowling. I make no money from this.

Prologue

Sirius softly traced the tapestry before him. He hadn't seen it in fifteen years. Fifteen long, dark years. Yet vivid memories flooded his mind with an intensity he hadn't expected when he ran his hand down the branches of the family tree, over the names of people who used to live in this ghoulish house, now long gone. His mother, his father, his brother - all dead. Somehow Sirius couldn't bring himself to mourn them, to feel anything but apathy. Why should he? They had meant little to him, and he was well aware he had meant even less to them. Only a rough black burn mark by the trunk caught his eye. He dragged his hand over the tapestry to touch it, letting his fingers linger on the faded name.

Andromeda. His favourite cousin. His only light as a child in a home of hatred and supremacy, his once dearest friend. What had become of her?

A heavy sigh escaped the convict's lips. How much he had lost... Bitterness overcame him as old memories resurfaced. Memories of the ambitions he once had, memories of Lily and his beloved godson, memories of James and Remus and their days at Hogwarts. Of James and Remus and the rat. He shook his head in revulsion, swallowing the rage that was building up in him.

The ceaseless desire for revenge made him restless. Almost a decade he had spent, waiting, planning, drowning in the nightmarish thoughts the Dementors would force into his mind. Revenge was all he had left. Yet somehow, for some reason, it didn't fulfil him. He wanted his life back. And this time, he would ensure that no one could take it away from him. Not the Ministry of Magic or the Dementors or even Dumbledore himself. If nothing else, he had been blessed and cursed with the Black blood that coursed through him. Seeking power came naturally to him.

Sirius took a few steps back. A cloud of dust arose from the creaking wooden floors. "Whatever happened to Kreacher?" he mused.

His voice sounded hoarse and awkward from lack of use. After a decade with no one but himself to talk to, it wasn't particularly surprising. "The little bastard probably hasn't cleaned this hellhole since my mother died."

The elf wasn't anywhere to be seen either. Had it died? Sirius snorted in a rather undignified manner. He wouldn't have been the least bit upset to hear of Kreacher's death.

Slowly pacing around the drawing room, he took the time to observe all the small details that once horrified him. They still did, but a decade in prison had dulled his emotions. He felt very little, if anything at all – numbness and exhaustion tended to dominate these days.

Grimmauld Place had always been gloomy and unwelcoming, but empty as it was, it felt all the more depressing. Sirius sighed for the umpteenth time since he turned the lock on the front door earlier that evening. Should he write to someone? Remus, perhaps? Or Andromeda? Neither of them knew of his innocence, and he wasn't yet sure how to explain his story. He would have owled Dumbledore to ask about his godson, but the old Headmaster was the very last person Sirius wished to hear from. He had lost much of the vigour and optimism he had possessed as a young man, and with that he had also lost his faith in the Light's leader, who had left him to rot in prison without the slightest concern, without even dignifying him with a trial.

Harry would be starting Hogwarts that year, Sirius realised painfully. Ten years gone by… Wasted. Would the boy still remember him? Would he even care to? How would he reach him? Sirius was sharp enough to know without a doubt the Minister for Magic would not have allowed the Boy-Who-Lived to be raised by a registered werewolf and that Dumbledore, although tolerant towards the supposedly dark creatures, would not have willingly handed Harry over to Remus.

Quickly making up his mind, Sirius retreated to his late father's office – he had several important letters to write.

The office was just as he remembered it. A heavy desk of cherry stood in front of a large bookcase, the shelves full of endless tomes on subjects mundane and harmless enough that they didn't require to be hidden in the library. The desk itself was cluttered with decade-old parchments and photographs – a sight highly unusual in the office of the tidy and organised Lord Black. Sirius couldn't help but wonder at that. The fireplace hadn't been cleaned either, wood and ash lay on the dusty grate behind carefully engraved stone walls.

Sirius sat on the soft Victorian chair for the first time in his life – he had never been allowed to do so as a child, not even his mother had had access to her husband's beloved office. The inkwells on the desk had dried up and the quills were nearly featherless. There was no spare parchment to be found either. The new Lord Black unsheathed the wand he had stolen from a guard during his escape, ready to conjure the materials he needed. He was soon distracted by the pictures strewn on the cherry surface. Most of them portrayed two smiling young boys in expensive-looking robes, two boys with locks of thick black hair that fell over their pale foreheads and into their grey eyes, two boys that looked so innocent and happy, there was no possible way they could indeed be Blacks.

Sirius scowled. Had his father regained the few shreds of compassion he had once had before his death? Or had Regulus become sentimental after Sirius had run away?

There was no way of knowing. And frankly, Sirius told himself, he didn't care to know. These days were behind him.

The wand was still in his hand, he realised. He quickly conjured ink and parchment and set himself to work. The first letter was to be sent to Remus, the second to Andromeda, the third to McGonagall – although they were never particularly close, she was a reasonable woman and, despite her stern behaviour, Sirius could tell she had always held him dear. She would believe him. Unthinkingly, unwittingly, he moved his quill over to a fourth piece of parchment.

Dear Bellatrix,

He furrowed his brow, confused by his own actions. What was he doing? Bellatrix had always been his least favourite family member, perhaps short only of his mother. Yet an instinctive feeling told him to continue.

I am writing to you from my childhood home. I cannot explain to you in writing what has happened since I was taken away, but I am free now, and I plan on restoring the House of Black. Not for a seat in the Wizengamot or a say in pureblood politics, but for the sake of our safety. We must stand united in these trying times. Please accept my request to meet in the following days, there is a lot I have to tell you. I need your help, and after certain events, I think you would benefit from mine too.

I look forward to seeing you.

Your cousin,
Sirius
(Lord of the Noble and most Ancient House of Black)

He didn't quite understand why he was writing a letter to the woman who had intimidated him throughout his entire childhood, who had tortured him verbally and even physically. But seeing Rodolphus being dragged into Azkaban had sparked a certain emotion in him, one he could not pinpoint.

Perhaps it was remorse for abandoning his friends and family when they most needed him. Perhaps it was fury at having their lives dictated by Wizarding society. Perhaps it was just relief at seeing a familiar face in his living, waking nightmare behind steel bars, even if it had been one of his least favourite people.