So Sirius's story is now officially "canceled" and being absorbed into one shots. I wish I didn't have to do this but there was no possible way to continue it without abandoning the main story. I will name all of these one shots with Sirius and then the date so you can see where you are, and also say the date or dates here
This Sirius one shot takes places on the first of September, 1971

-x-

Big wheels rolling through fields

Where sunlight streams

Meet me in a land of hope and dreams

- Land of Hope and Dreams, Bruce Springsteen

-x-

The day started off as he expected. All through breakfast his parents lectured, his father's voice puncturing deeply while his mother's voice left sharp cuts on the surface. He pretty much ignored them, only nodding or shaking his head when he heard the pauses. Mostly he watched the clock, willing it to go faster.

Finally his father rose to his feet, wiping his mouth off to indicate the meal was done. "Oh, and Sirius?" he asked as if just remembering. Sirius looked at him, keeping his face impassive. "Try not to embarrass the family name." It was a demand, not a request.

"Yes, sir," Sirius replied, trying not to roll his eyes. Considering my mere existence is an embarrassment to the family name, it's an impossible task, he thought, pushing his chair back.

Ten minutes later, Sirius was up in his room kneeling in front of his new trunk, making sure everything was packed. His brother stood to one side, arms folded, lips tugged in a frown as Sirius rummaged through his things. He had packed the previous night, under the supervision of the stupid house-elf so not everything had been packed...

"Hey," he said, going over to his dresser. "Help me, will you?"

Regulus helped him pull the dresser aside so he could pull up the loose floorboard, grabbing the bag of pranks and firecrackers he had hidden.

"Is that... a good idea?" Regulus asked, watching Sirius put the bag deep under his clothes, except for a few items which he stored in the bag he intended to carry on the train.

"No. I should have more, but it's all I could get," sighed Sirius.

Regulus frowned deeper. "That's not what I meant and you know it. You—you're planning on getting in lots of trouble."

Sirius straightened up, pushing his hair back. "In my defense, only half the trouble I get into is actually planned, the rest is just accidental." He shut the lid to his trunk and gave a nod. "Now, we wait. I wish the train left earlier."

"Wish it didn't at all," Reg mumbled.

Sirius smiled. "Next year you'll be with me. The Black brothers reigning supreme, eh? No one will be able to stand in our way."

Regulus looked up and smiled. "Yes," he agreed.

They played chess and other games until it was about time to leave. Sirius let Reg win most of the games; mostly he watched his brother, wishing Reg could be in the same year as him, wishing they could go together. He was a little concerned on what would happen to Reg over the next year, without Sirius there to protect him.

Nothing I can do, he thought when their mother screamed it was time to go. He put his shoes on, grabbed his bag, and grabbed his trunk to drag it down the stairs. It loudly thumped on each step until Walburga shouted for Kreacher to help. Kreacher appeared, taking the trunk from Sirius.

Soon the three Blacks (as Orion was at 'work'; whatever that was, Sirius wasn't entirely sure) were in the back garden. Sirius turned to Regulus, wanting to hug him. Instead all he could do under their mother's watchful eye was offer a hand. Regulus felt a little shaky as they clasped hands briefly, a flash of worry in his dark eyes.

Be good, Sirius thought as he turned to his mother. Reg was, really, the good one and hopefully without Sirius causing so many problems Reg wouldn't get into much trouble...

Walburga grabbed Sirius roughly, and, without any hesitation or warning, Apparated to Platforms Nine and Three Quarters. Sirius was yanked along, squeezed through what felt like a small tube. Once they landed at the station, Sirius staggered a few steps away from his mother, rubbing his head. Kreacher appeared a second later with the trunk. They left the Apparation area quickly, making sure they weren't in anyone's way.

"If you even think for one second you're going to act up at school you better reconsider," Walburga hissed, digging her nails in his arm. "You've done enough to humiliate the family. You're going to be more in the public eye and you are the Black Heir. If you put even a toe out of line, you will regret it. You will not do your little... jokes... or anything along those lines. Got it?"

"I understand," he replied. Oh, yes, he understood. He just had no plans on following through.

Walburga gave him a dark look, as if knowing perfectly well what he was thinking. "Do us proud," she said.

"Yes Mother."

She turned and returned to the Apparation area, disappearing. Kreacher gave Sirius a sneer, and followed his mistress, leaving Sirius alone on the platform. If he decided to run away and disappear into Muggle London there was nobody stopping him, except for the fact he'd probably die within twenty-four hours due to the fact he'd have no idea how to survive.

Sighing, he dragged his trunk towards the train. Other students had trolleys… little wheeled things to push their heavy trunks around. He wasn't sure where to find one until he saw an empty one by the train. Someone had just been using it. He went over, seized the handle, and pushed it back to his trunk. He struggled getting it on but finally he got his trunk to the train. Now to get the trunk onto the train.

He glanced around, seeing family members helping the students getting the trunks up. Nobody was going at it alone. Swearing under his breath, he began pulling at one of the handles before it suddenly became a lot lighter. He looked up in surprise at an elderly man.

"Need help?" he asked, holding onto the other end of Sirius's trunk.

"Ahhh..." He probably should say no. "I guess."

"Where are your parents?" the man asked, helping Sirius get it onto the train.

It was on the tip of Sirius's tongue to say he was an orphan. It wasn't as if he had real parents, just two people who made him and then yelled at him ever since. "Busy," he answered.

"The luggage compartment is this way," the man said, indicating towards the back of the train. "Once you get to Hogsmeade the house-elves will take your trunks to the school so you won't need to worry. We'll get your owl settled in too."

Sirius frowned, wondering why this man was being so nice to him. Together they got the trunk to the luggage compartment, and Filibuster's cage to the pet compartment. The man set Filibuster's cage up next to a puffed-up eagle owl. Filibuster gave an annoyed screech, and tried to kick at the man through the bars.

"This is my son's owl," he explained, indicating the eagle owl. "Godric."

Sirius snorted. "I can see where he wants to be, then." He knew he sounded rude, and probably shouldn't, but it was a little suspicious why some random guy would want to help a kid like this.

The man just smiled. "Good luck at Hogwarts." He offered his hand and Sirius slowly took it. The man had a pretty firm handshake, but not like some of the adults that hung about the Blacks; they always squeezed Sirius's hand, as if wanting to prove they were bigger and stronger than him. This man had a firm grip, but it wasn't tight.

Sirius didn't even consider the possibility of thanking the man until several minutes later after they parted ways.

Now that all of that was taken care of, it was time to find a compartment to sit in. Most of the ones he found were full of older students. Occasionally he came across one with first years in it, but they seemed full and he didn't want to join them. Finally he found an empty one and sat there, staring out the window.

A moment later the compartment door flung open. Sirius jumped a little, looking up into the wet face of another first year.

"Oh," she said miserably. "I wanted to be alone."

"Fat chance of finding that," Sirius replied.

The girl eyed him then made the decision to come in, throwing herself into a corner and crying.

Sirius watched her curiously, trying to remember the last time he had seen anyone cry. "Something wrong?" he asked.

The girl glared at him with ferocious green eyes. "No, I'm crying for fun!" she snapped, then went back to her sobbing.

Before he could make a sarcastic response, the door opened again and a couple boys came in, not even bothering to ask if they could join. One of them sat on Sirius's side, and the other two sat on the girl's side. Sirius suspected the one directly next to him was a Bottlebrush, but wasn't sure about the others

The girl kept crying, ignoring them.

The three boys were chattering about Quidditch, discussing the league and possible outcomes. Sirius half-listened. Bottlebrush and one of the other boys were arguing about the Wimbourne Wasps being the best team, while the Indian boy directly across from Sirius furiously defended the Appleby Arrows. They were all quite noisy, until finally it got to the point where the probably-Bottlebrush turned to Sirius and asked for his opinion.

Sirius raised his eyebrows. "Considering the fact the Arrows destroyed the Wasps in the last three games they've played, you haven't got much room to celebrate."

Bottlebrush and the other boy were angry, but the Indian boy grinned. "Exactly!" he said, clapping his hands. "You like the Arrows, then? Or another team?"

"I like the Arrows well enough," Sirius answered. "Probably number two I root for."

"Who's your first?" he asked, pulling a box of dragon caps out and tossing one in his mouth. When his bag was open, Sirius couldn't help but see a pile of pranks. An excited shiver went through his body as he wondered if the other boy was like him.

"The Catapults," he finally replied, realizing he hadn't answered.

"Ooh," the boy breathed out, the spiciness of the sweet wafting across the compartment. "Yeah, they're good, though the Falcons flattened them—"

"What a surprise, considering how they play," Sirius couldn't help but say.

The Indian boy began laughing. "Right? Talk about bloodthirsty! Have you been to any games? I got to see four this year."

"No, I—" Sirius began but was interrupted by the door opening again. A sallow-skinned boy with a large nose pushed past the boys without any word, quickly sitting in the seat across from the girl who looked at him and promptly said she didn't want to talk to him. "No, I haven't been to a game in a while," Sirius continued. "I got to go to the Cannons-Falcon game last year..."

"I got to see the World Cup last year," the Indian boy boasted, and Sirius expected some long discussion about the World Cup but instead the boy got into his bag again, this time pulling out a firecracker. "Think I'd get into trouble if I light this out the window?"

"Oh, for sure," Sirius said with a smirk. "If you were caught. Of course, you'd definitely be caught and get into more trouble by setting it off down the corridor."

"Definitely more trouble and definitely caught," he agreed, beaming.

"You could chuck it in a loo," Sirius suggested. "Blow up a toilet. What would blowing up a toilet on the train do, anyhow? Send it careening down the tracks?"

The Indian boy began laughing, while probably-Bottlebrush and the other boy looked rather disgusted. "Absolutely brilliant, but I was thinking about—" But whatever he was thinking about, Sirius didn't find out as he stopped, turning to look at the sallow-skinned boy. "Slytherin?" he asked, out of nowhere.

The sallow-skinned boy and the crying girl had been talking all this time, though Sirius hadn't really been listening; he only just realized they started talking about houses.

"Who wants to be in Slytherin?" the Indian boy continued, and looked at Sirius. "I think I'd leave, wouldn't you?"

Sirius felt a sharp pain in his chest. Centuries of Black tradition pressed down on him along with the knowledge he would, undoubtedly, be there as well.

But he didn't want to be, and planned to put up a fight.

"My whole family have been in Slytherin," he replied, and waited to see the Indian boy's response, wondering how he'd react. The boy talking to the crying girl gave a slight sneer at that, probably realizing who was lounging there. Sirius had never said his name but if this sallow-faced boy was from a long line of Slytherins he'd no doubt recognize a Black. But Sirius just waited for the Indian boy, a little bit worried. He expected him to say something awful… to cut that spark of possible-friendship apart.

"Blimey," the boy finally said, hazel eyes sparkling behind his glasses, "and I thought you seemed all right."

Sirius relaxed, grinning. "Maybe I'll break the tradition," he said, knowing perfectly well he wouldn't. Couldn't. Especially not the Black heir. "Where are you heading, if you've got the choice?"

"Gryffindor!" the Indian boy announced, pretending to brandish a sword. "Where dwell the brave at heart! Like my dad." He gave a few stabs of the imaginary sword, and the sallow-skinned boy made a disgusted noise. "Got a problem with that?" he asked, turning towards the other boy.

"No," sneered the sallow boy, "if you'd rather be brawny than brainy—"

The Slytherin-wannabe annoyed Sirius to no end. He knew the only reason was the desire to be in Slytherin. Who'd want to be there? So Sirius asked, "Where're you hoping to go, seeing as you're neither?"

The Indian boy burst into shrieking laughter, slapping his thighs. The crying girl finally had enough, and she gave despairing looks to Sirius and the other. "Come on, Severus, let's find another compartment," she said, getting to her feet.

"Ooooooooh!"

The girl and boy left, and the Indian boy stuck his foot out to trip the boy. "See ya, Snivellus!" he called out as the door slammed shut.

"Snivellus?" Sirius asked, covering his mouth as he laughed.

"Isn't that what she said?" the boy asked, adjusting his glasses.

"I think she said Severus," said probably-Bottlebrush, looking less than amused at what happened.

"That's what I said," the Indian insisted. "Snivellus. So where are you two planning on being?"

They exchanged looks, and both said Ravenclaw, which cemented in Sirius's head that the kid was a Bottlebrush, as all Bottlebrushes went to Ravenclaw. But apparently the Indian boy and Sirius's attitudes didn't sit well as they both said they'd find another compartment as well, and left.

"Oops! Ran'em all out," the Indian said, and flopped back, putting his hands behind his head. "You know, you never did give me your name."

"Sirius. And yours?"

"James!" He offered his hand, and the two shook. James's hand felt warm in Sirius's, and the excitement in James's eyes filled Sirius with excitement as well, like they were on the brink of something big. "You wanna try chucking the firecracker into the loo in a bit?"

"I'd love it," Sirius said, settling back. James offered him a dragon cap, and Sirius put it in his mouth. He wasn't a huge fan of the fiery feeling the sweet gave but he'd probably take anything that James offered. "What else have you got besides firecrackers?"

The two emptied their bags of their pranks, finding they both got pretty much the same things only James had loads more than Sirius did. Clearly James had a big allowance which seemed to have been spent solely at Gambol and Japes. Sirius didn't have much of an allowance (technically he did, however it was typically taken away whenever he caused problems which was to say nearly daily) but he did manage to buy quite a bit of stuff when he sneaked off away from his parents for a bit. They had been busy talking at the entrance to Knockturn Alley with some relatives. Andromeda's family, actually, meaning Andy was around somewhere but only her younger sister had been there, and Sirius disliked Narcissa so he hadn't hung about.

After a bit, James and Sirius abandoned the compartment in order to mess with other students. They let some toads loose in a compartment of first years (James had brought them) before deciding to go for the firecracker idea. After stalking out a few bathrooms they found an occupied one, tossing the lit firecracker over the stall door. Best of all, it landed in the toilet and there was quite a wet explosion. The sputtering and screaming were definitely worth it even when they tried to escape and some big guy grabbed hold of them, and the guy from the stall came out with toilet water dripping off his clothes.

Somehow James and Sirius managed to escape. They took off running, trying to figure out a good place to hide. When they got to one of the last sections of the train they began trying doors but most were completely full of older students, and the last one—whose curtains were shut tight—was locked.

"Gotta try," James said, whipping his wand out. "Alohomora!"

The door opened and the two fell in, immediately shutting the door and bursting into laughter. James got up, locking the door then apologizing to whoever was in the compartment but Sirius was still laughing. "His face, his stupid face!" The enraged expression, damp from toilet water. Perfect.

"Once he catches us, you're dead," James pointed off.

Sirius shook his head, not caring. "Totally worth it!" He had worse things happen to him than some toilet-water-covered teenager.

Then a tiny voice piped up from the other side of the compartment. "A-hem. Excuse me. Erm. E—excuse me…! Um, I—I'm sorry but—I–I… prefer—alone."

Sirius finally looked at the person they had intruded on, and everything inside of him shifted. There was something familiar about the kid, but Sirius knew he had never seen him before in his life.

The boy appeared like he could keel over dead at any second. Sirius had never seen anyone looking so frail, delicate, or sickly (the shabby clothes certainly didn't help). He was so short too, far too small to be eleven! He was even paler than Sirius (but more in a grey, sickly manner) so the dark smudges under his eyes stood out like beacons. Above the smudges were eyes the strangest color. Amber, with flashes of gold. His voice had matched his appearance: rather feeble and pathetic.

Sirius felt an immediate, fierce desire to protect him.

He had never really felt that way before about anything or anyone except sometimes Regulus, but it felt different than it did with his brother. At least Regulus didn't seem as—as impossibly fragile as this kid, and Reg was a year younger!

James talking pulled Sirius out of his thoughts, then there was a knocking at the door. He and James retreated. "My poor face!" Sirius couldn't help but say, suspecting that was what would probably get the brunt of the older student's vengeance.

Then, miraculously, the tiny boy got rid of the older students. It only took a few words, and the insistence he was sick. He is sick, Sirius thought, watching the back of the boy's head. Tawny hair. Light orange-brown, a few strands of gold mingled in that brought to mind his eye color. Except his hair was rather limp, clinging to his skull. He's very sick. With what, though? Something really bad, if Saint Mungo's couldn't fix him. Not bad enough that the kid couldn't come to school, though.

He's going to be eaten alive. Sirius's heart lurched a little. No matter what house this child was put in, he'd be bullied in an instant. Sirius had been around enough bullies (his family) to know their thought process. There'd be housemates that would take pity on the infirm, but the bullies would be drawn to him like flies to honey.

There was something honey-ish about the boy. Golden and light.

James pulled Sirius to the door as the boy shut it. When he turned around—finding the two of them right there—he jumped a little, fear filling his eyes. "Bloody brilliant!" Sirius said, as a way of thanks.

"Are you really sick?" James asked, studying the boy. Sirius wanted to smack him. It's obvious he is! Sirius wanted to snap. He kept his mouth shut.

The boy scurried off to the seats, drawing himself into a corner, as if he wanted to shrink himself into nothingness. "Nothing catching," he whispered. "Erm, you c-can stay in—in—for… for a few—m–m–until… they go to—carriage…"

He could barely speak. Was that part of the illness? Even though he could barely talk, however, he had saved James and Sirius just using words. Sirius was glad the older student hadn't tried to push his way in. He could easily picture the small boy being shoved to the floor and breaking into thousands of pieces. Like glass.

Then the boy asked them what they did, and James and Sirius happily shared with him their prank. The boy looked rather startled when Sirius explained but didn't say anything mean about it. Sirius wasn't sure if he didn't care, thought it was funny, or wanted to turn them in. It could be any of those. Hard to tell.

After a few seconds Sirius was aware the boy was staring at them, and he finally decided to ask the question that had been burning in his mind since the second he had spoken. "So, what's your name?" He needed to know the boy's surname, needed to know who he was. Maybe if he did, he'd be able to know what was wrong. He wanted to know.

The boy looked as if Sirius had asked him something very personal. He shrank a bit more. "Th–they're probably g-gone by now."

Sirius flinched at how brunt the other boy was, but of course they had literally spelled their way into his locked compartment. Except he didn't want to leave. He wanted to know more about the kid, and why he had made Sirius feel strange. Wanted to know his surname. Who he was. "Right-o. Thanks for your help!" He rarely thanked people (wasn't supposed to) but the kid deserved it.

"Our hero," James added.

After making sure the coast was clear, James and Sirius left. As soon as the door shut behind him, he heard the click of the lock. Why is he keeping it locked? Sirius wondered.

"That was weird," James said as they went down the hallway.

"What do you suppose is wrong with him?" Sirius looked over his shoulder, staring at the closed door. "You think he's really okay?"

"Huh? Oh, I guess so. They wouldn't let him come to Hogwarts if he had anything contagious, right?"

James's nose wrinkled a little. "Definitely not."

Yes, but it must be bad Sirius was still staring at the door but James grabbed his arm, pulling him.

"Come on, let's set off more fireworks!"

Sirius finally looked back at his new—he hated to use the term 'friend' after such a short time, especially as they'd be going to separate houses. James was undoubtedly a Gryffindor. And Gryffindors and Slytherins weren't friends.

"Yes," Sirius laughed, pushing aside the dark thoughts for now. "Let's do that."

As they ran down the aisle and were yelled at by a prefect, Sirius thought at least he'd have this one shining, beautiful train ride to get him through the darkness of Slytherin.

-x-

Except before Sirius knew it they were pulling into the Hogsmeade station. James barely had time to throw on his uniform (changing right there in front of Sirius) before the train finally stopped. The two of them tumbled off the train, following the loud voice shouting for first years. Apparently, they'd be crossing the lake in a boat.

James went running, and Sirius had to hurry to follow.

James banged past someone and it was a brief second before Sirius realized it was the sick kid. Thankfully he didn't fall, only scowl as James jumped into a boat.

"Just us," James whispered.

Sirius turned around, making sure nobody else got in. Only, he'd let the sick kid join them if he wanted. But the sick kid went to another boat, looking rather frightened.

Then Sirius noticed Emil Mulciber, a friend of the family's, coming nearer. Sirius stiffened, but Mulciber didn't seem to have interest in joining their boat. Instead he gave a pudgy kid a hearty shove away, insisting the boat the kid was trying to get into was his boat. The pudgy kid would have fallen in the water if James hadn't reached out and snagged his robes.

"Whoa there, you all right?" he demanded, pulling the kid into their boat.

"Y—yes," the boy sniffled. "Thank you."

Before they could kick the kid out, the giant man who had introduced himself as Hagrid started sending the boats off. Sirius swayed, and sank down onto a seat as their boat began moving on its own.

"I guess it's okay if you're in here," James told the kid who looked a little uncomfortable at that statement. "But only if you agree to our terms."

"T-terms?"

"Yes." James bent in, moonlight glinting off his lenses. "In order to be in this boat you must be a pirate."

"Oh!" the kid laughed. 'Yes! I love pirates!"

"Arrr!" James stood up, putting one foot on the front of the boat. "Avast, me hearties, we be settin' sail for the gold and glitter!"

Sirius had expected to spend his entire trip to Hogwarts feeling miserable and instead he had been having a good time, and was now pretending to be a pirate. He wished he could be in Gryffindor with James; his excited attitude and sheer joy was infectious.

But soon they were gliding into a cave system where everyone had to get out of the boats. The fun of being a pirate was pushed down by nerves. Soon—too soon—he'd be Sorted, and sitting with them.

Hagrid led them up a passage and onto the grounds of Hogwarts. Sirius craned his back back to look up at the castle that would be his home for the next seven years. It was positively breathtaking set against the clear, glittering night sky. He had watched it come closer during the trip over the lake, of course, but now standing in front of it he felt awed. Like doing a loop-de-loop on a broom.

Suddenly James was linking his arm with Sirius's, grinning at him. It felt like a shock hex zapping through Sirius's entire body as the touch, at James's arm wrapped around his own.

"I've dreamed of this moment my whole life," James whispered as they walked up the steps, James pulling him a little since Sirius was still trying to figure out how to deal with the contact, "but it's better than I ever expected."

Together the two of them walked into Hogwarts, and Sirius couldn't agree more.

-x-

The time between entering Hogwarts and going into the Great Hall to be Sorted went by in the blink of an eye. Sirius stood next to James as the Hat sang its song, wanting to grab hold of James but not daring to with so many eyes on them. So many Slytherin eyes. There were Blacks in almost every pureblood family, and so many of them sat at the Slytherin table.

"Beetle, Beatrice?"

Sirius clenched his teeth as he watched the girl be Sorted into Ravenclaw. Please let there be one more student. I'm not ready for this to end.

"Black, Sirius?"

His time was up.

"Good luck," James whispered, patting his back.

Goodbye, Sirius thought miserably, then tossed his hair back and stuck his nose in the air as he went to the stool. He could hear the Slytherin table whispering however their voices faded as the Hat was placed over his head.

Not Slytherin, he thought immediately, knowing perfectly well how the Sorting went.

Not Slytherin? a voice whispered in his ear. A Black? Not in Slytherin? This is quite an event.

If you put me in Slytherin I swear to Merlin I'll light you on fire and dance on your ashes.

The Hat laughed. I've had worse threats from more frightening students than yourself. You are cunning, young Black, and have the desire to make something of yourself.

Something that isn't Slytherin or my family! Sirius thought desperately. He knew it was useless. He'd be put into Slytherin any second now.

Now, who said you were going into Slytherin? the Hat asked, and Sirius stiffened in shock. As I said. A Black not in Slytherin. Quite an event. Cunning and ambitious, but those are not your core traits, nor are the Slytherin traits ones you particular admire. In all honesty, Sirius Black… you have the spark of true loyalty inside of you. The fierce loyalty of a Hufflepuff.

HUFFLEPUFF?! Sirius's mind whirled at that. Hufflepuff? Him? Hufflepuff?

Hufflepuff, the Hat replied. You seem to be the sort of person who would kill to protect the ones you love. If you ever find such a person, with that shield up. However… you also have the courage of a Gryffindor.

Sirius grew angry. Now the Hat was making fun of him. Teasing him. Torturing him before putting him in Slytherin.

Am I? You are daring and determined. Your fierce Hufflepuff loyalty bleeds into the loyalty of a Gryffindor. You could easily be in either house, young Black, but I know which one will suit you best.

Before he could even consider what was being said, the Hat shouted, "GRYFFINDOR!"

Absolute terror pierced his chest as he pulled the Hat off. Everything was a blur. There were a couple of people at the Gryffindor table clapping, but only a few and they stopped when they realized nobody else was cheering. It was like someone had put the silencing spell on the entire Hall.

Sirius forced himself to stand up, trying to hide how shaky he was.

Gryffindor?

He was a Gryffindor?

I'm dead, he thought, curling his fingers into fists as he glanced around the Great Hall. My parents are going to murder me.

Voices began springing up at the Slytherin table. Traitor. Traitor. Sirius felt his heart freeze as more Slytherins whispered. Traitor! The voices were getting louder.

Someone pressed a hand against his shoulder. It was the black-haired witch whose name he dimly remembered being McGonagall. "Go on down to your table now," she said in a kind voice. She gave him a slight nudge.

I'm dead, he thought as he set the Hat back on the stool. His entire body felt like ice except for something burning hot in the pit of his stomach. The fire burned as he kept hearing traitor traitor traitor, and he caught a glimpse of many sneering faces at the Slytherin table.

The knowledge of his impending death was swept aside as the anger blazed hotter inside of him. He turned to face them completely. I'm not one of you. I'm not, and I've finally got proof. He wanted to shout at them, curse them, call them all names. He wanted to do something, to rub it in their stupid snake faces that he wasn't one of them!

The words ripped out of him before he could think about them, an unfortunate habit he couldn't overcome no matter how often his parents punished him for it.

"SUCK ON THAT, SLYTHERIN!"

He threw his hair back again and headed happily to the Gryffindor table, pretending like he'd actually survive past the upcoming weekend.

Gryffindor.

And if not a Gryffindor, a Hufflepuff! Slytherin hadn't even been on the table!

None of the Gryffindors were cheering as he slid into his seat, however one single person in the entire room was: James, standing with the other first years. He clapped and whistled, grinning at Sirius, giving him a thumbs up.

The Sorting began again and Sirius stared hard at the front of the room, ignoring the looks from the Slytherins. He kept his chin up high, wondering how many of them would write to his parents that night. Emergency letters sent with the big announcement.

He wondered what his mother would think when she got the news her son and heir had been put in Gryffindor. It gave him a twisted sense of joy, picturing her furious face. He'd at least die laughing when she and his father came on the weekend. He wondered how they'd kill him. Poison? Surely not the Death Curse, not on Hogwarts grounds. Perhaps some other spell, closing off his throat or stopping his heart.

No, not like that. It wouldn't be painful enough.

There were still whispers about him, just loud enough for him to hear. Glares were sent his way. Not only from the Slytherins, but the Gryffindors as well. He could feel the hostility from them and the message was clear: he wasn't going to have an easy time at Hogwarts.

Easier than if I were in Slytherin, he thought, scanning the first years and spotting the sickly boy. He wore his uniform now which should have made him look better, now that he was out of his secondhand clothes. Instead he looked, somehow, even shabbier. The uniform was clearly secondhand as well, and enormous! It practically swallowed the poor thing. Sirius couldn't believe his family hadn't gotten him a properly fitted uniform. Didn't they understand how important it was? Did they not care?

Or maybe, whispered a cold voice in the back of his head, they couldn't afford it.

Couldn't even afford a decent-fitting uniform? No, that was absurd.

If he's put in Gryffindor I can protect him, Sirius suddenly realized, unsure why he felt so… so protective. It made no sense. Plus he had no idea what family tree the boy had, so he didn't have any kind of hint where he'd end up. He had been leaning against a redheaded girl and—no, that was the crying girl from the train. Sirius only remembered that since the greasy-haired Snivellus stood on her other side until she was Sorted into Gryffindor. That left the small boy alone next to Snivellus. Did the sick kid know him?

Merlin, is he going to be in Slytherin? Sirius clenched his teeth. There was no way the little kid would survive! The Slytherins would tear him to pieces.

"Lupin, Remus?"

The sickly kid swayed a bit like he might fall over.

When nobody went forward McGonagall said again, "Lupin, Remus?"

Sirius broke his focus on the sick kid, wondering who wasn't responding to the name. Other students whispered, curious about what was going on. No other name had been called twice.

McGonagall had a frown on her face while the first years all exchanged looks.

"Lupin, Remus?" McGonagall said a third time, very firmly.

Suddenly Snivellus gave the sickly boy a rather rude shove forward, and he stumbled, looking mortified as several students laughed.

Lupin, Sirius thought as the boy crept forward, the Hat sliding over his small head. The boy jumped almost immediately, probably from the Hat talking to him. Lupin. The name sounded familiar but not enough to be a Pureblood. Perhaps a pureblood, but he certainly wasn't in the Sacred 28, nor was that a family his had interacted with.

Lupin began shaking, clutching at the Hat. Sirius's fingers twitched as he waited, hoping he wasn't being tossed to the snakes.

"GRYFFINDOR!"

Lupin jumped, pulling the Hat off. He looked rather impassive however his hands continued to shake as he put the Hat down. Sirius began waving at him (as did the redheaded girl) but Lupin breezed past both of them, going to the far end of the table. He shrank down into a seat, looking like he wanted to slide clear under the table. Sirius lowered his hand, feeling a bit rejected.

By the time they reached the Ps, James still hadn't been called. It was then Sirius realized he didn't know James's surname though he suspected it might be Shafiq. James was definitely a rich pureblood, and the Shafiqs were the only Indian family in the Sacred 28. Sirius wriggled in anticipation while the pudgy boy from their boat took ages to be Sorted. Another Gryffindor. Then Pocklington went to Hufflepuff. Then suddenly James. James Potter.

Sirius barely had time to lean forward when the Hat announced Gryffindor. The fastest Sorting of the night. The Hat barely even touched James's hair!

James beamed, looking quite pleased at the thunderous applause the Gryffindors were giving him. Several students clearly wanted him to sit with them but he ran straight for Sirius, crashing into him.

"Well done!" Sirius said, and James held his hand up. Sirius gave a puzzled frown until James took his hand (took his hand, just grabbed it so casually) and slapped their hands together.

"Quidditch thing," he explained. "A high five. We're together!" He slid even closer to Sirius, their legs bumping against one another.

Together.

It sounded… so good. Warm, in a strange way he hadn't expected. Or experienced before. It felt right. Like some part of him had been missing for eleven years and now everything had clicked into place.

Together.

James Potter and Sirius Black.

"We're going to cause so much trouble," Sirius whispered, and James shrieked with laughter.

Together, not just for the train ride. I'm actually in Gryffindor with this wild boy who doesn't seem to mind who I am.

It felt too good to be true and Sirius wondered briefly if he was about to wake up to find it had all been a dream. He wasn't this lucky.

"Definitely," James whispered back once he finished laughing. "I'm so glad I was put in Gryffindor. But of course there's no other House for me."

They talked during the rest of the Sorting, the rest of the meal, and all the way up to the Gryffindor tower which took forever to get to. The common room was hidden behind a portrait of a huge woman and the kids crawled inside, most of them tired, some of them excited. Sirius was excited. Very excited.

That's when the older boy from the train appeared. He seized Sirius, lifting him up off the ground as he threatened to hurt him. Sirius didn't care. He was in Gryffindor now! Let Toilet-Water pummel or hex him, what did it matter? He was in Gryffindor! But the prefect who guided them to the tower rescued him, though she sounded bored doing so.

The six first year Gryffindor boys went up to their dorm. Sirius didn't think he could contain his excitement another second longer. This was his new home. It was so different from his actual home. Home Back There was cold, dark, and empty. This place… Gryffindor… felt warm, bright, and cozy. Of course it helped that he had someone with him, even if that someone was holding his arm again.

Sirius couldn't fathom the constant touching that James apparently liked, but it felt rather nice.

Once in the dorm he scanned the room for his trunk. It was easy to spot: it was the only black one. It sat between the door and a bed whose trunk was labeled 'M. Spinnet'. Next to Spinnet's was a very battered trunk and even without the initials of 'R.J.L.' Sirius would have known it belonged to Lupin. Next to Lupin was 'Struthers', then 'J. Potter', and finally 'P.P'. Sirius did not like this.

"Hey Struthers, switch me beds."

Struthers didn't respond so Sirius began moving his trunk on his own. Struthers yelled at Sirius but then moved his trunk complaining bitterly as he did so. Sirius pulled his trunk to his new bed next to James, who beamed at him. This meant he was also next to Lupin's bed and could—

Could what?

Before Sirius thought of an answer, James got pajamas out of his trunk, stripping off right there in front of everyone. Sirius hesitated then jerked back as someone rushed past him. Lupin dove out of the room in the blink of an eye.

"Could—could I switch beds with someone? I don't feel comfortable by the door," Struthers said, sounding awkward.

Spinnet glared at Sirius who ignored him. "Yeah, we can switch."

"Thank you," Struthers sighed with relief, and the two of them switched so Struthers was now on Lupin's other side. Then he and the pudgy kid (P.P., what parent would do that to a kid? It made Sirius want to laugh) left as well to change in the bathroom. Spinnet changed in the dorm like James had.

Sirius pulled black silk out of his trunk, unsure. He didn't want to seem like a prude and if things were different he wouldn't care at all about anyone seeing his body. But…

He climbed into bed, closing the curtains to change there. Most of his scars were on his back where he couldn't see, though he had one on his side, one on his shoulder, and one on his thigh. His most recent one. He ran his finger along the silvery mark, shivering a bit. Quickly, he pulled his pajamas on before emerging back into the dorm, hoping James would want to stay up and talk for awhile.

Oh boy, did he. He practically dragged Sirius into his own bed, which made Sirius a bit nervous. Sitting on a bed like that with someone. He and Regulus used to spend time like this, whenever they could get away with it. Sirius drew his legs up, feeling awkward at the closeness, but James seemed completely comfortable as if he owned the place. Which… if he was one of those Potters, he might as well. The richest wizarding family in the country. Could James—with the tie-dyed shirt, messy hair, lopsided glasses, and endless mischievous energy—be a Potter-Potter?

Sirius thought someone from the Shafiq family married into the Potter family, however he thought that was the Potter main bloodline, and he doubted someone as explosive and wild as James could possibly be the heir. Right?

Sirius decided not to ask. Instead, they talked about pretty much everything else. They had so much in common; from the comic books and magazines they read to their favorite pranks to buy. They talked again about Quidditch, then sweets, music groups, and on and on. They talked and talked as everyone else fell asleep, then talked some more until finally James just outright asked, "Friends forever?" And held out his hand.

Sirius was taken aback. "Friends forever!" he agreed, more startled than anything else, and they clasped hands. More touching. He had never met anyone so open before. It seemed a bit unnatural. And a little unnerving. But they shook hands solemnly before snickering.

Sirius returned to his own bed, feeling the pull of sleep. Friend, he thought, yanking the covers up. He's my friend. He lifted his hand, studying it in the dark. He had had 'friends' before, or at least kids his parents told him were to be his companions growing up. Other purebloods. Stuck up, boring purebloods. None of them found it remotely funny whenever Sirius tried to pull a prank on someone; in fact, most of them tattled, the rats.

James was different. This was a real, proper friend.

Who apparently really liked contact.

But for the first time in his entire life, Sirius fell asleep feeling rather at ease. He had some awful dreams though. Creepy long-fingered hands reached through thick fog to grab for him. His mother's shrill voice yelling. Regulus whimpering in the dark. Whimpering, wouldn't stop whimpering. Someone hurt him. Whimpering—

Sirius upright, awake. The whimpering continued.

Rubbing his eyes, he fuzzily recalled where he was. Not Grimmauld Place. Hogwarts. The Gryffindor tower. Gryffindor. Yet someone was whimpering. Then there was a sobbing sound that was cut off as its owner quieted.

It was the bed next to Sirius's. Not James, but Lupin. Lupin was upset.

Sirius looked at his closed curtains, not sure what to do. Then he heard Lupin's timid, frail voice whisper, "I want to go home." Then silence.

He lay back down, closing his eyes, unable to imagine that kind of feeling. Wanting to go home. If he had his way he'd stay at Hogwarts every day of the year until graduation and escape.

Homesick. A concept that seemed utterly foreign to Sirius.

Shrugging he rolled over, facing James's bed before drifting back into sleep, though while James was on the forefront of his mind, Lupin filled the remainder of his head, which was where he stayed until Sirius fell back asleep.