I used to be extremely self confident; some called me arrogant or cocksure, and they were probably right. Now, as I stand here with Harry in this shadowy pantry, I feel nothing but panic and guilt. I know that I am about to let Harry down.
During my time in Azkaban, I tried to keep my mind focused on the one unhappy thought the Dementors allowed me to keep: I am innocent, Harry needs me, and I have to get out of here. Once I was out, my focus changed to: kill Peter, protect Harry. I regret that I didn't kill Peter, but I don't regret that I listened to Harry. That boy has seen too much as it is.
Once Harry was chosen as a Triwizard champion, I spent my time frantically trying to figure everything out. The why was obvious. There were many names to put to the who, but it was the details that drove me crazy. It was like trying to untangle a knotted length of thread. I kept finding loose ends but I could never get to the center. When I met Harry in Dumbledore's office after his return from the graveyard, I wanted to comfort him, but there was nothing I could do. I couldn't change the fact that he had dueled the most evil wizard alive. I couldn't change that he had seen James and Lily and had spoken with them for the first time, when they were mere ghostly echoes from Voldemort's wand. I was glad to be sent away to gather the Order members. Much as it galled me to admit, Molly's motherly comfort was probably much better for him than my impotent presence.
By the time I had spent a few days confined to Grimmauld Place, my dominant thought was, "how much longer do I have to endure this?" There have only been two times in my life that I have had to force myself to enter a building. The first was entering the wreckage of Godric's Hollow. The second was returning to Grimmauld Place. I hate this house and all it stands for. Not long after my return here, we got the news of the Dementor attack. It was like being in Azkaban all over again; Harry was in danger and there was nothing I could do to help him. Or, to put it properly, there was nothing I was allowed to do. To make it worse, I had to control my emotions so the rest of the Order wouldn't think that I was unstable, and so I wouldn't be easy entertainment for the Legillimens in the Order.
I've never been able to shut myself off and not display my feelings. I used to think of that as a positive trait. My whole family was frigid and cold; the strongest emotion they expressed was "strong distaste" shown by a sneer or a curl of the lip. Only occasionally did the Blacks lose control, and then it was always into rage. It was with no small measure of satisfaction that I provoked my family when I finally left home.
I've always been the opposite of Remus. Other than Snape, I've never known a better Occlumens. No matter what happens, Remus is in control of himself. Rationally, controlled, steadily, calmly...these are the words people would use to describe Remus's reactions to pressure. Passionately, impulsively, angrily, these are my adverbs, and up until now, I've worn them like a badge of honor. I've found that they've made me a fun friend, an exciting lover, but a terrible Occlumens, and a poor excuse for a godfather.
While I look at Harry, his resemblance to his father pulls me into a memory of the night Dumbledore first told us that Lily and James were in danger. They sat together on a couch holding a sleeping Harry. James's shoulders tensed and Lily's jaw tightened, but her hold on Harry never changed. She didn't clutch, flinch or do anything that would unsettle him. James kept stroking Harry's head with the same steady touch. It was an amazing display of self control. I was the one who woke Harry up by jumping up so quickly that my chair fell with a crash as a I started to yell in my frustration. I was the one who made young Harry cry.
Now I have another chance. I failed just before the start of the school term. When Harry arrived, I was not in control of myself. The combination of being inside Grimmauld Place again, and knowing Harry had been attacked by Dementors had hit me like Bludgers to the gut. Then, seeing the dead Harry that Molly's boggart had turned into nearly undid me. I managed not to explode, but instead I froze. I couldn't banish a simple Boggart. Remus, always sensible, had to take care of it.
Tonight, the night of Arthur's attack by the snake, I am in the pantry listening to Harry tell me that he was the snake attacking Arthur, not just seeing the attack from the outside. I gather that he is afraid he is being possessed. All I rationally know tells me that possession is not possible in this case. But I also know that Harry has proven to be the exception to many rules. Is Harry telling me this because he wants hard answers or because he wants comfort?
I can't tell him too much about what we fear for him. Dumbledore's orders. My mind is frantic. What do I do? He needs me to do the right thing right now. I remember James's steady hands, Lily's gentle arms, and Remus's calm efficiency. Taking a deep, but hopefully discreet breath, I reply to him steadily that he shouldn't worry. I firmly insist that it will all be fine. I am fairly sure that I have managed to control my voice. But I know that if it weren't for these shadows, if he could see my face and look me in the eye, he could see past my pitiful attempt at self control. I clap him on the shoulder, and leave before I break down. I remain a lamentable Occlumens, and, I fear, a second-rate godfather.
Author's note: I don't really believe that Sirius was a terrible godfather. I think that by Christmas, though, he was profoundly depressed and convinced of his own uselessness. By the time we get to Harry asking him about Snape's memory, though, I think that Sirius was quite a bit healthier. He responds to Harry's needs much more deliberately and perceptively than he does at Christmas. I think that in the first part of that year, he was both despising himself for his depression and wallowing in it at the same time.