A/N: Characters are not mine; fic strictly AU; don't steal my story or claim it as yours; all hail J.K. Rowling

Chapter One

Number four Privet Drive was extraordinarily normal. It almost made Sirius' skin crawl, the way its hedge was trimmed ruler straight, how its curtains fell in perfect ruffles. 'This is where Harry lives,' he told himself. 'You have no right to be disgusted.'

Fifteen years ago, he'd let his godson be taken from him, and had gone to revenge his best friend's death on a traitor. His first duty should have been to Harry – but he'd been brash and foolish, and had lost five years to Azkaban in return. He had abandoned his godson when the then–baby had needed him most. 'Really,' Sirius admitted to himself, 'I have no right to even be in the same room as Harry.'

Steeling himself and taking a deep breath, Sirius strode up the front walk and knocked on the door.

A pudgy sixteen year old blonde boy opened the door, his blue eyes suspicious looking Sirius over.

Sirius' heart sank. So. This was his godson – this young killer whale of a boy was his godson. He looked nothing at all like either James or Lily; no messy jet hair or sparkling green eyes, which was odd because he'd been born with both. But babies often changed hair and eye colour, and Harry did have something of Lily's nose on him. Sirius cleared his throat nervously. "Ah. May I come in?" He couldn't help the slight quaver.

"Depends on who you are," Harry replied dubiously. His voice was unpleasant and snarly.

'He WAS raised by Muggles,' Sirius reminded himself. 'His behaviour is not his fault.'

"I'm Sirius Black, an old friend of your parents'. I've meant to come by before, but I... I never had the time."

"Oh," Harry said sullenly and held the door open bit more. "I guess it's alright then." Sirius stepped inside, entering the perfectly (and disturbingly) pristine front hall. "Have a seat. I'm the only one home right now, but they should be back soon."

"Thank you," Sirius said awkwardly. He headed into the living room, where the strangeness of perfect normality continued. "Look," he said to Harry, "I don't know if anyone's mentioned it to you, but I'm your Godfather."

"Oh?" For the first time Harry looked vaguely interested in Sirius. "Does that mean you have to buy me birthday and Christmas presents then?" Harry's wide nostrils flared with excitement. "And you've missed the first sixteen years too."

This was technically not true; on Harry's first birthday, Sirius had gotten him a Quidditch mobile with a glittering snitch wiggling always out of Harry's baby-hand reach. But this wasn't the time nor the place to mention that.

Sirius struggled to keep a smile on his face. "Er.... Yes... I suppose so. Um." He thought frantically, searching for something to say. "What would you like then?"

Harry fairly quivered in delight. "Wait here," he motioned for Sirius to stay and thundered up the stairs with an amazing speed considering his size. In less than a minute he was back with a piece of parchment – or whatever Muggles called it – clutched in one hand. "I made a list," he panted. His face was unattractively blotchy from exertion and he was sweating like a stuck pig.

He handed it to Sirius with reverential care, the light of greed illuminating his face. His eyes, small and squinting, looked piggish when coupled with his nose. Sirius immediately felt guilty for criticizing his godson, no matter how true the thought was.

Unbidden, he thought, 'How could two such attractive people produce someone so... plain is the nicest word.' Sirius said, "I'll certainly do my best in regards to the list." He glanced down at it, reading a bewildering string of names written under headers such as 'COMPUTER GAMES', 'VIDEO GAMES', and 'MOVIES'. Sirius folded the paper carefully and tucked it into his pocket. 'What do you talk to teenage boys about now?' he desperately wondered. The only thing he could think of was, "How was school? Doing all right?"

Harry shrugged carelessly. "I suppose. I think I'm being held back again this year. I had some trouble with Math and Science and English and... well, just about everything, really."

Sirius stared at Harry in growing horror, reminding himself over and over that he couldn't expect Harry to be a carbon copy of James or Lily. Or even vaguely similar. At all.

'It's not fair to judge the boy,' he told himself fiercely. 'Especially against the two people he has no hope of ever competing with.'

"Um. I'm sorry to hear that," he said.

"Oh, don't be," Harry waved a hand negligently. "Mum and Dad say I'm just a delayed learner."

"That's good," Sirius replied politely. Mentally he went, 'Wait: "Mum and Dad"?' "Excuse me," he began with growing suspicion. "What's your name?"

"Are you daft?" The boy Sirius was beginning to seriously suspect was not Harry James Potter said incredulously. "You're my godfather – you should know that my name is Dudley Dursley."

Sirius mentally slapped himself, muttering, "I'm an idiot." Louder he said, "Sorry, I thought you were someone else. Harry Potter lives here, right?"

Dudley narrowed his already narrow eyes. "That freak? Yeah, my cousin used to live here. He left six months ago. He just went away some night."

Sirius' heart began to thud angrily in his chest. "Why wasn't this reported to the police?!"

Dudley sneered. "Like we wanted that trash around! He was just taking up space and food – we'd been waiting for the day he finally left our lives."

"Where's his room?" Sirius asked angrily, ready to rip someone's head off.

Dudley pointed contemptuously towards the stairs and Sirius headed to them, taking the first six steps two at a time. Dudley's voice stopped him.

"Not up there," his tone implied the idiot. "UNDER the stairs."

Sirius stiffened, pivoting slowly to face Dudley's mean blue eyes. "What?" His voice was quiet in the way bombs are explosive. Dudley, dim as he was, managed not to take the hint.

"The freak – he lived in the cupboard under the stairs. It was the only space we had."

Sirius thumped slowly, deliberately down the stairs. Without looking in Dudley's direction again – he was too afraid of what he might be tempted to do – he went to the small door leading into the cupboard under the stairs. There was a padlock on it, which Sirius fingered thoroughly. "Why is this here?" he asked quietly.

"We couldn't have him out when we had company over – and sometimes he was bad, so his punishment was being locked in his room." Dudley's voice was unconcerned, as if he were talking of some inconsequential household pet. "He really hated it. After a few days in there, he stayed pretty quiet."

Sirius' hands clenched, and he didn't trust himself to reply. Despite the pad-lock, the doorknob turned easily, and Sirius stooped inside. The little room was heavily shadowed; Sirius searched for a light switch before tangling his hand with a string near his head. He tugged on the string, which clicked on the bare bulb suspended by a wire just mere inches from his forehead. It flickered eerily.

Dust was everywhere. It was on the small cot that looked barely long and wide enough to accommodate a ten year old. It was on the scattered workbooks and texts that sat on the cot; on the pile of blankets in the corner; coating the digital display of a taped together clock; spread out against the wooden floorboards that creaked below him. It made him sneeze, the sound of which causing a spider from the corner of his eye to skitter to the far side of the room.

Sirius couldn't even manage to stand up straight. He thumped his head on the roof in the attempt.

He imagined being stuck here –

For days, with spiders and dust and old books his only company, stuck in here with walls that loomed claustrophobically close -

With the door locked shut.


It was impossible to Apparate directly to Hogwarts, true; Sirius had long ago learned to simply Apparate to the hidden passageway leading to Hogwarts that opened into the Headmaster's office.

In Padfoot form, it only took him forty seconds to be there, panting with righteous doggy anger. Three pairs of vaguely amused eyes turned in his direction, along with one pair of barely held back dislike.

Apparently Dumbledore was in the middle of a meeting with two of his spies and the Head of the Aurors.

"Hello cousin," Nymphadora Tonks waved. "Care to be civilized?"

Hastily remembering his state, Sirius changed back to human form. "Tonks," he nodded in acknowledgement. He then ignored her and everyone else save for Dumbledore.

"I went to the Dursleys," he said coldly. "Guess what? No Harry. I want to know what happened to my godson. I want to know now."

Dumbledore swiftly cast a look at the other people in the room before nodding. "Of course, dear boy. Care to join me in my private rooms?" It was not a request.

As Sirius passed by Kingsley Shacklebolt and Severus Snape, Snape leaned forward to harshly whisper, "Another failure to the Potter family line? James would be so disappointed in your shoddy work."

Sirius refused to wince; at least, not while Snape was watching.

Dumbledore's private rooms were decorated in red and gold. Sirius followed the Headmaster into a sitting room, refusing a seat in favour of pacing angrily back and forth.

"Did you know, Albus?"

Dumbledore inclined his head. "Yes."

"Why didn't you tell me?!" Sirius couldn't bear to look at Dumbledore.

"I needed you to be focused on the task at hand," Dumbledore said quietly. "If you were distracted even by the smallest margin, lives – and chances – could have been lost. I needed all of you, not just what wasn't preoccupied with your godson."

"That wasn't your choice to make!" Sirius roared.

"Yes," Dumbledore replied. "It was."

Sirius stopped his harsh movements, his back to Dumbledore. "I need to find my godson. I owe it to James and Lily, and to Harry."

Dumbledore nodded. "Very well." He seemed unaccountably old and very tired. "Once you have found him, I believe I can arrange a place for him within Hogwarts for a time."

Sirius swept out of the room. His words, "We'll see," floated behind him.