I don't own any of the Harry Potter characters. They're all JK Rowling's; please don't sue.
This is NOT slash of any kind.
Prologue: How It All Began
Through his tears, Sirius turned his gaze towards the sky.
The sky seemed blacker than nature could allow, though the Muggle news forecasters had given their explanations. The day had been filled with horrendous clouds, delighting in hiding the sun as the night now hid the stars. Not even the tiniest sliver of light escaped from the veiled shadows. The houses held no promise of hope, devoid of the burning candles Sirius had come to take for granted, taunting him. Nature's echoes remained; the owls hunted and the ants crawling through the grass. Life, to be sure, went on, even in the darkest moments of the world.
Sirius yawned deeply, staring at the dark ceiling without truly seeing it. He ached for his godson with the kind of pain that felt as though he had faced a thousand Dementors and only barely came out alive. The most recent events certainly brought a change to the young Auror's life. Only a week ago, Peter had betrayed Lily and James to Lord Voldemort. The slimy piece of filth actually approached the Dark Lord and informed him of the Potters' hiding place. Sirius had been unable to warn them quickly enough to change their hiding place before they could reverse the spell. Voldemort killed the adult Potters swiftly, but then became nearly destroyed in the process of trying to murder Harry. Sirius dealt with all of this with composure, forcing himself not to break down into sobs, nor could he sink into a depression. Sirius had certainly expected his friends to survive the war, but they did not face death on a daily basis as Aurors without adopting a healthy sense of fear. Each day, his friends seemed almost surprised that they hadn't been killed in their sleep.
Sirius could not adjust to the fact, however, that he had been denied custody of Harry, his own godson. Dumbledore felt that because Lily's blood had saved him, the blood of her relatives would protect Harry from the Death Eaters who were evading Azkaban. Sirius felt it was child abuse.
"That git," Sirius muttered, and for the moment, he wondered whether he was referring to Pettigrew, Voldemort, Dumbledore, or even all three of them at once.
He knew the headmaster's reasons, of course. Dumbledore was usually right in matters of safety. And, had the Potters actually listened to Dumbledore's advice and made him their Secret Keeper, Sirius knew that they would still be alive. Dumbledore was the only wizard that Voldemort feared –but, instead, James had given that particular honor to his best friend, Sirius himself. Sirius, of course, lacked faith in himself and believed that Voldemort would be able to get the information from him by torture. To spare himself, and the Potters, Sirius convinced James and Lily to make Pettigrew their Secret Keeper. He had been so convinced that Voldemort would never suspect that they would use such a useless person, devoid in the abilities and bravery that Sirius and James had been so famous for. Peter, of course, turned in his friends, probably for power. Had the rat done his duty and died to save his friends, the spell could last decades before Voldemort would know where the Potters were.
He believed that Peter would rather be killed than betray his friends. But instead, the rat had chosen otherwise. He'd seized his chance as soon as possible –the Potters had died not more than a week after Pettigrew had been made Secret Keeper. Sirius should have known. He should have suspected something after Pettigrew jumped for the task. Of course he had been the spy.
Now, Harry was stuck with the Dursleys. Stuck with Muggles who would rather see him dead than alive. Why they allowed Harry into their home, Sirius could only guess at. Money, perhaps, or blackmail, or Dumbledore –or even all three at once. In any event, the Dursleys did not love Harry and would raise him to distrust others. They would never be a fraction of the parents that James and Lily would have been. Sirius wouldn't have been perfect for the role, but he knew that he would have done better than the Dursleys.
Of course, he reasoned, Even Snivellus could have done better than the Dursleys.
He was too upset even to laugh at James' nickname for their old arch nemesis. Sirius hated Snape with an intensity greater than all of the other Marauders, but he had to admit that Snape raising Harry would be an improvement, no matter how small, from the Dursleys raising his godson.
Harry would grow up unloved, of that Sirius was sure. The Dursleys hated magic. Petunia refused to admit she even had a sister; Lily had mentioned three years ago, when, her erstwhile relatives did not show up for her wedding.
Lily's parents were there, though. They were the only Muggles there, but they were proud of their daughter. She was their favorite; she was a witch, the smart one, the pretty one, and the most behaved at home. Even at Hogwarts, Lily never got into mischief until her seventh year, when James corrupted her. She received top marks in all of her classes, received the honor of being Head Girl, and even volunteered in Muggle hospitals during her summer holidays. Compared to Lily, Petunia was just the resident brat at Number 8, Pansy Drive.
Several small, bitter tears made their way down Sirius' cheeks. He wallowed in pity, for himself and for Harry. Harry would never know his parents and would most likely never know love. He deserved much more than this. Sirius ought to have been the one to been a parental figure. Ought to have been the one who, when the timing was right, explain what had happened to Harry's parents. Sirius would have gladly shared any embarrassing memories with Harry in exchanged for this privilege. He continued to cry in silence for a few minutes before making himself get up and dry his face.
I don't have time for this, he told himself. I am going to find a way to raise my godson. There must be a way, somehow.
But how? Harry was safest at the Dursleys'; there was no question about it. Unless he could prove otherwise (for example, that the Dursleys were plotting to murder their nephew), Sirius had no advantage over them in the wizarding court.
"It's Harry Potter, Sirius," Dumbledore would say. "He might not be as healthy or happy as we would like when he goes to Hogwarts, but he'll be alive. That's what counts."
Sirius had to prove otherwise.
He began to pace around his rented room at the Leaky Cauldron, ignoring his reflection in the mirror. He simply didn't have time to battle with his image, yelling at him to brush his hair and tuck his shirt in. He had heard enough of that from his mum while he lived at home, thanks. He forced his mind to concentrate on ways to gain custody.
Hours later, Sirius was still pacing, but with an idea. "Eukeka!" he shouted, unaware that he had mispronounced the muggle phrase.
He would prove that the Dursleys were treating Harry Potter, the Harry Potter, in a way that no muggle or wizard child could be subjected to. He had to find solid proof of abuse, neglect, torture, infanticide –Don't get too far ahead of yourself, Sirius! he admonished himself, rather sheepish.
Neglect second would be easy to find. The Dursleys didn't strike Sirius as the type of people who whipped children at minor offenses.
Then again, Wormtail didn't strike me as the type to betray his best friends, Sirius thought darkly.
Sirius barged into the closet, grabbed his Nimbus 1000 and James' old invisibility cloak, and opened the window.
He was going to spy on the Dursleys and convict them of child abuse (gaining Harry in the process, of course) even if it meant a temporary stay in Azkaban.
No one would deny Sirius his Harry. No one.
Two weeks later, Sirius had all of the evidence he needed. After doing an exchange of currency at his vault in order to buy a Muggle camera, he set off to inspect Number Four, Privet Drive. He expected to have to look closely, possibly even stretch the evidence.
Instead, he was armed with ammunition against the Dursleys, more than he knew where to begin. Harry's bottles and diapers were filthy, often leftovers from Dudley. Sirius witnessed Harry sleep in a dirty, spider-covered cupboard every day with only one, dirty blanket over a thin cot.
Azkaban lodging must look good compared to this, he thought ruefully, busily taking snapshots.
Harry's arms even contained a few bruises, albeit rather mild compared to what he had seen in the wizarding world. Whenever Harry cried, Dudley was encouraged to poke and hit him with his incredibly chubby arms. Sometimes, Mr. and Mrs. Dursley did the slapping. They had a very pleased, sadistic look on their faces when they administered this discipline. Sirius had to control himself to stay hidden in the corner and not strangle the Dursleys when he first saw this.
He had three hundred, well developed photos as proof. He took the matter to court, and even Fudge (a total dimwit, in Sirius' opinion) saw the severity of the situation. The question, however, was this; how could Harry be safe in another family when the Dursleys provided the blood protection?
The small courtroom was lit by long, thin, white candles, reminding Sirius vaguely of the Potions room during the winter. On impulse, he glanced around, but Severus Snape was absent from the trial.
Good. At least that git had the decency not to show up.
Dumbledore may have trusted him, but Sirius believed that even if Snape had never become a Death Eater, he was nothing but a greasy git.
The Dursleys stood before the judge wearing what Sirius supposed were dressed up versions of their muggle clothing. Harry was sleeping in a basket meant to hold laundry, and Sirius noticed in distain that part of the handling had come loose and was dangerously near to Harry's face. Harry was wrapped in a blanket, but it was worn and possessed a rather putrid stench. Dudley was absent from the hearing.
The actual session took only a half-hour. The pictures were worth, as the Muggle phrase went, a thousand words. No one could deny abuse when they saw it, and three hundred pictures was far too much to claim as a mere coincidence. Even the resident skeptic was sure to be convinced that Harry was suffering neglect from the Dursleys' care.
The blood issue, however, prevented Harry from being transferred to Sirius' home at Number 12, Grimmauld Place.
For two weeks, negotiations went on, giving the press much to report. No one was without an opinion on the matter. At least the articles were more or less accurate.
Finally, Dumbledore suggested that Sirius move in with the Dursleys. He wanted Harry to be safe, but surely The Boy Who Lived couldn't grow up neglected, abused, without any love, when his guardian was standing there, waiting and yearning to perform his duties? Of course, the Dursleys were positively mortified. They seethed with rage at the idea of taking in a grown wizard. Dumbledore pacified them with money and even the occasional threat of telling the neighbors of Petunia's being related to Lily Potter. After all, Arabella Figg lived only a few doors down from the Dursleys, and though Mrs. Figg was actually a Squib passing as a Muggle, the Dursleys were horrified at the idea that she could prove that they were abnormal.
Dumbledore also pointed out that by this compromise, the Dursleys would not have the burden of raising Harry or the problem of paying for his expenses. This sorely tempted the Dursleys, who felt the cost of raising another boy was just below an arm and a leg.
The Dursleys finally took Harry and Sirius into their home under the following conditions: Sirius had to pay for all of his and Harry's living expenses. In return, Sirius received the guestroom and managed to obtain Dudley's second bedroom for Harry. He was given the privilege of using magic in the Muggle world in emergencies. This meant that unless the Dursleys were threatening to hurt, kill, or throw Sirius and/or Harry out of the house, his wand would have to remain unused. In addition, if either of them were ill, Sirius could use magical means to get help.
Vernon had been quite insistent about this.
Sirius suspected, though he was not willing to place any large sum of money on this instinct, that the Ministry granted Vernon this request merely to humor him. If Sirius did occasional magic, the Ministry would not send him so much as a warning.
Even so, things were different now, and Sirius was not willing to risk being separated from Harry.
Siriushad insisted that heretain full responsibility of Harry. All parental instruction went directly to him; the Dursleys were merely adults who happened to live in the same house as Harry. The Ministry agreed readily; the Dursleys agreed even more readily. Sirius could have sworn he heard the words, "Good riddance to that brat" come out of Vernon's mouth.
Judging by the courtroom's reaction, he had not been the only one who heard these words.
Despite all of this, Sirius couldn't help but feel that he had been cheated. While he would be free to do his godfather duty for James and Lily and free Harry from a neglectful childhood, he would much rather have done it in the wizarding world, away from Muggles to whom "magic" was a swear word.
At least Sirius was able to prevent Harry from growing up in an abusive, loveless environment. He now watched Harry sleeping in his new crib, a soft blue blanket over his face.
"Someday, Harry," he whispered to the sleeping baby. "After all of the Death Eaters are in Azkaban and we know for sure that Voldemort's gone, maybe then we won't need the Dursleys' protection."
It seemed almost impossible, but Sirius could still hope. He smiled to himself, pleased at the thought that was forming in his head. He imagined taking Harry back to Godric's Hollow, showing Harry where he spent the early years of his life. He would even be able to meet some of his childhood friends at the wizarding playgroup. James and Lily would have been proud.
"Sleep well," he whispered, turning to switch off the light. "Puppy," he added.
It would be the perfect nickname. Sirius' animagus form was a dog, so it was only natural that Harry should be his puppy.
Besides, if Harry was anything like James, his hair would probably fall around his face like a dog's.
Sirius swallowed a sob.
Harry turned in his sleep, smiling slightly as he yawned.