The Mysteries of Guilt
Sirius Black sat in the small cramped living room in the home of his long time friend Remus Lupin. It was late October, the time of year when it was nothing but a series of rainy and windy days, with the ground coated in colorful wet leaves and puddles. Sirius hated October, just like he hated each and every other month. Right now, he seemed to hate everything, from the weather right down to the lumpy and uncomfortable chair he had been sitting in for six hours straight.
For the past three months, it could be said that Sirius's life was in shambles. Most of his time was spent sitting on the lumpy couch in his best friend's living room, holding a glass of fire whiskey in his right hand and staring absently into the fire. Of course, this worried several people, including Remus himself, but Sirius didn't care. He didn't care about much of anything anymore, and found no reason why he should start. He didn't like to classify himself as being depressed, because technically he didn't feel depressed, he just felt empty.
Even if Sirius did not consider himself to be in a depression, it was obvious to everyone around him that he actually was. The man hardly got any sleep at all, and had developed severe bruising under his eyes, which were glazed over and looked dead. His hair was in a tangled heap atop his head, and he had not shaved in several weeks, giving him a long and untrimmed beard. He was paler than usual, which was saying something since he only escaped Azkaban a little over a year ago and was still rather pale from 12 years spent in a cell. He hardly ate anything anymore, and he was always either drunk or experiencing a hangover.
Sirius was sure that the only reason Remus had not kicked him out of his house yet was because if he tried, Sirius would most likely be caught by the Ministry and killed immediately. Several people had already talked to him about his problem, including Albus Dumbledore, Arthur Weasley, and his younger cousin Nymphadora Tonks, but it hadn't helped. The fact of the matter was that Sirius had lost what he valued most in the world: the boy he considered to be like his own son.
Harry Potter had disappeared three months ago, and nobody knew whether he was dead or alive. The last time anybody had seen him had been leaving his relatives' home at a run on August eighteenth. Nobody had heard from him since. His relatives said that he had been acting strange and distant for the entire summer holiday, and had suddenly run from the house and just never came back. All of his things had been in his bedroom, including his wand, and yet, he had disappeared.
After Voldemort's return, Dumbledore had been having Harry followed for his safety to make sure that nothing happened to him. The 'guard' that Dumbledore had brilliantly set up had been reluctant to follow him when he left the house. Mundungus Fletcher had been told to watch Harry and protect him with everything he had, and after swearing he would, the old bastard had gotten drunk and felt too sick to follow Harry, thinking he would be back in a minute. Sirius had beaten the man to a pulp after hearing that.
The first thing that anybody had thought was that Voldemort had kidnapped Harry and was holding him prisoner, or had already killed him. But then it was reported three days after Harry's disappearance that Voldemort was just as stumped as the Order of the Phoenix. Severus Snape had discovered that Harry was nowhere near Voldemort and therefore had disappeared for some other reason. The Order, which was a secret society created by Dumbledore to fight against Voldemort, was baffled, and had begun to search everywhere they could think of around and in Little Whining.
After weeks of tiresome searching, Dumbledore called off the search on September twelfth. Nevertheless, Sirius had dragged Remus out and together they had searched for days on end, Sirius never getting tired despite the futility of it. But it was plain to see that the two men were not getting any results, and when Remus had said it was becoming pointless to search, Sirius had given up himself, withdrawing into his own misery and trying to drink his problems away.
That was why he was sitting in an armchair at three in the morning, watching the fire die in the grate, an empty glass of fire whiskey in his hand. The house was silent, since Remus had gone to bed hours ago, and the only sounds were that of the chiming grandfather clock in the kitchen and the wind howling outside the door. Sirius sighed for the fifth time in the past hour and blinked the tiredness away. He hadn't slept for three days, but he found that he didn't want to sleep. Sleep wasn't exactly necessary, it was merely what people did to keep themselves energized. He didn't need energy to put to use. All he needed was the strength to get up and to the kitchen and back to refresh his drink.
And speaking of a drink . . .
He looked down and realized for the first time in a half hour that his glass was empty. He got up from his chair and limped slowly into the kitchen. His right leg was asleep from lack of use, which was causing him to limp, but it didn't matter, it would wake up eventually.
Just as he entered the living room and was about to turn into the kitchen, he stopped dead. Somewhere in the kitchen he was sure he heard a weird shuffling sound. He held his breath, listening hard, and suddenly he heard it again. He knew it couldn't be Remus, because it was the night before the full moon, and Remus hardly even had the strength to get up, let alone be awake after a dead sleep like he was usually in at this time.
He looked around in the darkness, cursing himself for leaving his wand upstairs in Remus's guest bedroom, the room he barely slept in. He cursed as he groped blindly for a weapon, his hand stumbling along until it found a vase on the table. Luckily, there were no flowers or water in it, so he didn't have to dump it out. Yes, he knew it was a rather pathetic weapon, especially considering it was decorated with painted flowers on the outside, but it was better than nothing. He held it high over his head and abruptly turned the corner into the kitchen, looking around frantically in the soft candlelight. There was no stalker in the room, no robber or Death Eater creeping in the corners with a wand outstretched. No, there was something much different.
It was a boy. A small boy who looked to be no older than six years old, sitting in the counter with his legs swinging, throwing what looked like a muggle baseball in the air and catching it.
"What the . . ." Sirius muttered, dropping the vase to his side and staring at the little boy.
The boy looked up and smiled at Sirius, giving off a small childish giggle before returning to his ball. The boy, to Sirius, looked awfully familiar . . . Too familiar. He had a pair of round glasses that were two sizes too big for his small, angelic face, and messy black hair that stuck up at every angle. He wore an old pair of overalls with a green shirt that looked far too big for him, and old, peeling tennis shoes. But what confirmed Sirius's suspicions of who he actually was the shadow of a lightning bolt shaped scar Sirius saw in the flickering light when he glanced towards the boy's fringe to confirm his guess.
"H-harry?" He whispered, his voice thick, and he was sure he heard a loud echo coming from every corner of the room. The boy looked up at him, still smiling, and waved.
"Hi, Padfoot," he said in a jubilant voice. "I missed you."
Sirius choked at hearing his old nickname and distantly heard the vase in his hand fall to the floor and roll away, but he was too numb to care. He was too confused as he stared at the six year old version of his godson, wondering exactly what happened. He felt like he had been transported into another universe.
"Harry . . . How . . . You're supposed to be fifteen, not . . . Where have you been . . . Are you hurt?" he finished lamely.
Harry shook his head, his hair flying around his face. "No," he said simply. "I'm not hurt." He threw the ball up and caught it again. "I haven't really been anywhere. I'm a memory. Not the evil kind like Voldemort, but a good memory."
"A memory?" Sirius said, nonplussed. "Why? Where is the real Harry? Are you a ghost?"
"Of course I'm not a ghost, you can't see through me, can you? I am the real Harry," Harry said, scowling in a good-natured sort of way. "But if you mean the fifteen year old version of me..." Harry paused and bit his lip.
"Where are you, Harry? Please tell me," Sirius said sounding on the verge of tears. "I need you! Please tell me you're okay."
Harry shook his head. "I can't tell you," he said with a shrug. He looked over at Sirius with a newfound smile. "Do you like my ball? I stole it from Dudley last week so I could have something to play with when I was locked in my room. I wrote my name on it so Dudley couldn't take it from me. I hid it in the corner of my room next to the big spider web. That's where I keep all my prized possessions."
Sirius didn't understand . . . he felt completely baffled.
"Why can't you tell me where you are, Harry? Please, I want to help you," Sirius whispered. He heard Harry sniff before he looked up, tears in his eyes.
"I don't know where I am," Harry whispered and started to look around as if he didn't recognize where he was. "It's really dark and cold. I'm scared because I don't like the dark. My cupboard was dark and I never liked it. But this place is scarier. It's small, I can't fit, and it's suffocating me. . . Please help me, Sirius, I need you. "
"What is the last thing you remember, Harry?" Sirius asked quickly. "Who took you? Who?"
Harry shook his head and wiped the tears off his face. "I kept my ball in my secret hiding space, where I kept everything important to me," he whispered, then looked up and stared directly into Sirius's face. "Just avoid the purple bull."
"What bull? Harry - "
"Catch!" Harry yelled, and threw the ball over to Sirius. With quick reflexes, Sirius caught the ball in his hand. He heard a giggle and looked up over at Harry, about to demand that the boy answer all of his questions, when he realized that he was staring at nothing but the counter. He was alone, and there was no sign of his godson anywhere in the room.
Sirius woke with a start in his chair, his chest rising and falling rapidly. He looked around the room for a minute, trying to register what had happened, before he realized that everything had just been a confusing and disappointing dream. It had been so vivid that Sirius could have sworn that it had been real.
He sighed and rubbed his eyes, feeling the burn of exhaustion behind his lids. He shifted on the chair and winced at the hard feeling of the cushion. Remus really needed to get a new chair. He felt a particularly hard spring pushing into his thigh and reached down to move it, only to find that there was no spring to move.
His hand came in contact with something round and firm, and when he pulled it out from under him, he stared at it in shock. It was a muggle baseball, just like the one Harry had been playing with in his dream. He turned it around in his hand, studying each stitch and mark on it. It wasn't until he had turned it completely around that he saw something that made his eyes sting.
Written in messy, childlike handwriting, was the name Harry James Potter.
Before he knew it, Sirius had broken down in tears, the ball falling from his hand and onto the hearth in front of the fire. Until now, he hadn't shed a tear over Harry's disappearance, instead letting his pain and suffering fester inside of him as he tried to numb it with alcohol. But now, after seeing the baseball in his hand . . . He just couldn't help but let the tears fall.
It felt good to cry. It felt as if all of his pain was being cleansed by each and every tear that leaked down his face. The overwhelming sense of loneliness was easing with each sob and it just felt good to express the emotion that had been building inside of him for months.
He knew that Harry had been trying to tell him something in his dream, but for the life of him, he couldn't figure out what he was trying to say. It was likely to drive him insane if he couldn't figure out what the message was. He had talked about his baseball, being dark and cold, and something about a purple bull. What did it all mean?
Sirius quickly shot up from his chair and looked around in surprise to find Remus standing at the foot of the staircase in an old battered robe. He hastily wiped away the tears away from his face as he stood and looked at Remus.
"Sirius, what - "
"I have to find him, Remus." Sirius said, quickly heading to the door. "He asked for my help, and I need to get to him."
"Sirius, what the hell are you talking about?" Remus asked, striding to meet him at the door. Sirius noticed that his forehead was shining with sweat and he looked paler than usual. It was a sure sign that the full moon was right around the corner.
"Harry! Who do you think I'm talking about!" Sirius yelled, throwing his cloak over his shoulder. "He asked for my help, I have to get him!"
"Sirius!" Remus yelled, grabbing his arm. "Harry is gone. He was never here - It was probably just a dream - "
"It was no dream!" Sirius shouted back, holding the baseball up to Remus's face. "He gave me this! He was playing with this! How else do you think I got it!"
"Harry's trunk is in the attic," Remus said, trying to sound completely calm. "You could have gotten it from there. Sirius, Harry is gone. You have to face that fact."
Sirius stared at Remus in silence, his jaw clenched. He stared for a moment before tearing his arm out of the man's grasp. He gave his friend the coldest look he could muster before staring down at the baseball. He blinked, looking surprised for a minute before looking back up at Remus.
"Harry came to me because he said he needed help," Sirius whispered in a venomous voice. "He told me he was suffocating, that he was scared and didn't know where he was. I am not going to let him down again. He wants me to find him, and I will."
"Where are you supposed to find him?" Remus hissed. "Nobody knows where he is, do you even know if he's alive or dead?"
"I don't know," Sirius said turning and opening the door. "I hope beyond anything that my instincts are right when they say he's alive, but . . . I need to help him. I don't know where he is just yet . . . But I know where to start."
He turned and headed out of the door, slamming it shut with a loud echoing snap. Remus strode forward and wrenched it open, running out onto the porch.
"Sirius!" He yelled into the darkness, but when he looked around, he heard a loud crack that signaled that Sirius had Disapparated and was gone. Remus stood in the dark for a moment before turning and hurrying back into the house.
He immediately went over to the fireplace and grabbed a handful of floo powder, throwing it into the dying flames. They immediately roared green and tall, and Remus got down onto his hands and knees and cleared his throat.
"Headmaster's Office, Hogwarts," he called clearly before taking a deep breath and sticking his head into the flames. He kept his eyes firmly shut as he experienced the familiar spinning around him, increasing his headache tenfold, but he ignored it. His concern for his close friend was more important.
His head stopped spinning and he heard the familiar chiming that announced the arrival of a floo call. He waited impatiently for a moment, gazing around the office with disinterest until he heard footsteps and looked around to find Dumbledore heading down the stairs.
"Remus," the man said in bemusement. "What brings you here at four thirty in the morning?"
"We have a problem," Remus said firmly. "It's Sirius"
Sirius lay crouched in the front yard of Number Four Privet Drive, his dog shaped body camouflaged by the darkness of the bushes along the fence. He had been sitting there for two hours, and now at seven in the morning, the first signs of life were showing from Number Four. He was truly glad for the signs of life, because not only was he wet and cold, he was also anxious to get to Harry.
Harry's uncle, Vernon Dursley was the first to leave the house. He had only seen Vernon Dursley once over twenty years ago, and it seemed the only difference was the man had accomplished was getting more fat and colorful. Sirius watched him get into his car and speed down the street, a distasteful look planted firmly on his face.
Next to leave a little less than a half hour later was Harry's Aunt Petunia and his cousin Dudley. He had always marveled at just how different Lily and Petunia looked, and sitting in the bushes, Sirius could only be thankful that Lily had gotten the better looks of the two. It also seemed that Dudley had inherited some of his father's bulk, and he was so fat that Sirius saw the car tilt to the side as he got in it. He had started to laugh when he first saw the ridiculous clothing Dudley Dursley was wearing, with orange knickerbockers and a stupid looking straw hat, but it wasn't hard to regain composure when he remembered why he was there.
When the house was empty, Sirius chanced emerging from the bushes and walked through the backyard until he reached the backdoor. He had thought it was a bad idea to go searching the Dursleys' house in the middle of the night while they were home, because if they woke up and saw him all hell would break loose. He didn't really think it was a great idea if he was snooping around in the daytime either, in case one of the neighbors saw him or something and informed the muggle police, but it was the only time that the Dursleys were out so that he could do it.
He looked around to make sure that nobody was watching before he transformed back into a man and took out his wand, tapping it on the handle of the back door.
"Alohomora," he muttered, and the door creaked open.
Sirius entered the house and quietly closed the door behind him. Immediately upon entering the kitchen he had to wince. Never before in his life (and he had lived in a proper and aristocratic household with house-elves who kept everything spotless) had he seen such a spotless and . . . white kitchen. Harry had told him before in a letter that his aunt had OCD when it came to keeping her house clean. Looking around now, he had to say that it sounded like a large understatement. It felt like he was committing a sin just walking through the kitchen with muddy shoes on.
He quickly started to search the house for a staircase to lead to the bedrooms upstairs and soon found it. Looking around, he saw two doors opened and noticed that one was just a bathroom, and the other looked to be Harry's aunt and uncle's bedroom. He opened the door on the left and was immediately confronted with a tidy yet dilapidated room. The bed was made and the clothes folded neatly in the drawers and hung in the closet, but everything seemed broken. The desk was propped up with several books that looked like nobody had ever touched them, a broken fish bowl, and a television on top of another cracked television. On top of the dresser was pounds and pounds of junk food.
"Disgusting," he muttered as he stared at the dozens of pictures on the wall of Dudley Dursley with his family and friends. Sirius noted that there was not one with Harry in it.
He closed the door behind him and looked down the hall. There was a small narrow door that Sirius suspected to be a towel closet and two doors left on the right side. He opened the door and saw a flowery full sized bed with an oak dresser and flowers. The room was well decorated, but Sirius was sure it was not one that was used very often, perhaps a guest bedroom?
He closed it behind him and turned to the last door, guessing that this was or had been Harry's bedroom. He quickly opened the door and stopped in shock at what he found.
Nothing. The room was completely bare.
There was a bed frame over in the corner covered with a folded mattress, and an old and worn desk in the corner, but besides that the room was completely void of any material items whatsoever. He wondered for a brief moment how Harry's bedroom had looked before the Dursleys had cleaned it out, perhaps due to it being a lost cause if the other one was anything to go by, before he moved around, looking in the corners.
Harry had said something about hiding his ball (which he currently had in his pocket) in his hiding place in the corner. He looked in all the corners, trying to find any loose floorboards or trimming, but there was nothing. What had Harry meant by a secret hiding place? Perhaps Sirius had really just been dreaming, Harry was really lost or dead somewhere, and Sirius couldn't help him. In desperation, Sirius checked every part of the room, finding only one loose floorboard that had nothing inside. Other than that, there was nothing to even say that Harry had ever lived here.
Sirius collapsed onto the floor and felt tears prickling his eyes. He had failed Harry already. He didn't know what that dream meant and he had been so sure that it was really Harry trying to tell him something, but of course he was his usual dense self and couldn't figure out heads or tails of it. He envisioned the look of desperation he had seen in Harry's green eyes as he sat on the counter as his six year old self, pleading with Sirius to help him. But how could he help him if he didn't know where to look? All he had talked about was some stupid ball and a bull . . .
Suddenly, as though he had been hit in the head, Sirius jumped up with his eyes wide. It couldn't be . . . He thought, quickly looking around the room. He hadn't noticed before the coating of dust that had grown on the floor and the spider webs on the wall. Perhaps, maybe. . . This wasn't Harry's bedroom?
I'm scared because I don't like the dark. My cupboard was dark and I never liked it. . .
Harry had said my cupboard. Did that mean that the bedroom he had been referring to was actually a cupboard and not a real room? Harry had mentioned the Dursleys' hatred of him and said they did mean things to him, but did they condemn a little boy to live in a cupboard?
Sirius quickly headed out of the room and looked down the hall. He opened the towel closet, but quickly shook his head. It wasn't big enough to fit anything more than a cat inside and it was full of linens and towels, making it impossible for anybody, even Harry, to fit inside. He slammed it shut and ran down the stairs, checking in the living room first, but found no doors inside. The kitchen closet was dusty and held nothing but old soup cans, and Sirius was pretty sure that Harry hadn't been hiding in there.
His gaze had then lingered on the small door under the staircase. It seemed so ludicrous and ridiculous that Sirius had wondered why he was searching through cupboards. Surely the Dursleys didn't force Harry to live in one, did they? Nevertheless, he opened the door and immediately his suspicions were confirmed. Inside the small and dank cupboard, was a messy cot, opened with sheets strewn on top. Somebody had slept in it.
Sirius took a deep breath and suppressed the rage he was feeling, telling himself he could kill the Dursleys later if he wanted to. Slowly, he entered the small cupboard and pulled on the string attached to the light bulb only to realize that there was no bulb in the socket.
It's really dark and cold. I'm scared because I don't like the dark.
Sirius couldn't blame Harry for being scared of the dark now. What kid wouldn't be after living in a dark and cold cupboard all of their life? Sirius was sure he would have been if he had been in Harry's situation. If only Sirius had known. . .
Swallowing his guilt for the moment, Sirius turned to the corners of the cupboard and lit his wand. Sure enough there were more than enough spider webs to fit Harry's descriptions. He felt around, his breath quickening in his chest and suddenly as his hand grazed over the corner farthest from the door, he felt a shudder.
He squinted down and moved again and saw a small fragment of the floor board moving. He took a deep breath before removing it and sticking his hand inside the gap. Inside, it came in contact with something soft and damp. Pulling it out, Sirius's eyes widened when he realized what it was. It was a diary. Had Harry written anything about the day he had disappeared?
With a shaky hand, Sirius opened to the first page and wasn't sure whether to be surprised or not to find the familiar childish scrawl.
August 16, 1986
Hi, my name is Harry Potter and I am six years old. I live at Number Four Privet Drive in Little Whinging, Surrey and I live with my Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon and older cousin Dudley. My mommy and daddy are dead; they died in a car crash when I was a year old. Aunt Petunia said they were drunk, whatever that is . . .
A car accident? A car accident? How dare those horrible relatives of his tell the child that his parents died in a car, not to mention drunk! James and Lily would never have been so reckless or irresponsible, especially when it came to their decisions concerning their son. With a frustrated sigh, Sirius turned back to the book and scanned it.
The first few pages told of Harry's life in general at the age of six, his trials of playing the dreaded game he had dubbed Harry Hunting. It talked about how he had no friends and that his family hated him, often locking him in the cupboard with days on end with no food at all.
It wasn't until he reached the seventh page in and Sirius guessed that Harry had gotten a little older, maybe seven or eight, that Sirius discovered he had been abused all these years after all. It told that Vernon had broken his arm at first, and during the first two weeks didn't dare look at him. And then after that, it had been like World War III. Harry had been terrified.
When I was younger I really hated school. But now, I find it as a sort of sanctuary when it comes to Uncle Vernon. There, he can't hurt me at all. It's when I come home that I'm truly frightened and the nightmares fall into place. . .
How could Harry not have mentioned any of this to him? Didn't he trust Sirius with this sort of information? He had told Harry that anything he needed to talk about, all he had to do was write to him . . . But maybe Harry was uncomfortable writing it in a letter. Maybe he didn't want to face it in words, and it wasn't like their meetings were private enough for something like this, not to mention long and extensive enough. How could he have let Harry go through something like this? And moreover, how could anybody not have noticed?
Sirius didn't want to skim any of it as he read through Harry's torment and pain. Had this been what Harry's memory had been trying to tell him in his dream? That he had been unloved and abused his entire life and he was ready to tell him? Or was there something more?
It wasn't until he reached the second to last page in the diary that Sirius noticed the handwriting had dramatically changed. The last entry had been when Harry was eight, and it had explained that it was too risky writing now because his aunt had a tendency to open the cupboard door at will to 'Make sure I'm not doing anything freakish,".
No longer was the handwriting inside large blocked letters, neater than the beginning but still considered a child's scrawl. No, now the letters were neater and smoother, more drawn and written in thicker ink, as if they had been written by a quill. They were a teenager's writer rather than a child's. Sirius swallowed, and eagerly read on.
July 29, 1995,
It wasn't until Uncle Vernon forced me back into the cupboard that I remembered I had hidden this in the hiding place several years ago. When I was ten, I was moved into Dudley's second bedroom upstairs because Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia were afraid wizards were watching the house. They stopped their abuse for some very short years, but it wasn't until recently this summer that it all started up again.
I'm scared again. Every night I fall asleep in the dark and cold cupboard, feeling the chill you get when a spider crawls up your back, but also mixed with the knowledge that he is only right upstairs, snoring away. He is more brutal than before, and doesn't show any mercy like he used to. I never used to think he did show mercy until I experienced the beatings this summer.
Something weird is going on. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia have been more secretive than ever before and I've seen them whispering and casting thoughtful and mainly disgusted looks in my direction. I'm used to the disgusted, but not the thoughtful. It makes me afraid.
I've been locked in here for three days if I'm guessing correctly. I'm hungry and exhausted. I can't sleep because I'm too afraid he'll come when I'm not looking. Fear sucks.
Harry, Age 15 (almost)
Why hadn't Harry written to him? Why hadn't he sent Hedwig along and told him what was going on? That was the hardest thing Sirius was trying to comprehend. Maybe he hadn't really been as close to Harry as he liked to think. Maybe Harry didn't trust him as much as Sirius had thought. He hadn't been there for him when he needed him, and Harry seemed to have paid the ultimate sacrifice for it.
Tears threatened to fall once again, but Sirius managed to hold them in place. Now was not the time to cry, but rather the time to be strong. He looked down at the diary again and turned to the last page. Once again the handwriting had changed. It was more scrawled and messy, as if it were written really quickly with a fractured hand. Sirius didn't doubt that it had been.
August 17, 1995,
Something is wrong. Very wrong. I wish more now than ever that I had turned around after entering platform 9 ¾. I haven't been let out of my cupboard for days, unless you count getting beaten yesterday night because I had a nightmare and was screaming. It was pretty bad and my arm feels like it's broken, it's why I can't write.
I think something is about to happen. I heard Aunt Petunia talking about me going somewhere. Where I don't know, but all I do know is I'm not keen on going where she wants me to. Uncle Vernon seems happier than usual, and when I looked through the keyhole he was looking through a map and muttering something about Route 17. I think he's taking me somewhere. Where exactly I don't know.
Harry Potter, Age 15
That was the last entry he had written, and it had been written in pure fright. Sirius suddenly had more than a hunch that Harry's Aunt and Uncle had more to do with Harry's disappearance than they were letting on. . .
A sudden noise brought Sirius from his reverie. He quickly jumped up and dropped Harry's diary into his pocket. A door slammed outside and the sounds of heavy footsteps vibrated up the drive. Sirius quickly slammed the cupboard door shut and transformed into a dog, heading quickly towards the kitchen. As he did, a weird smell entered his senses, something that seemed to dim as he headed towards the kitchen, but he didn't think much of it. Before he even got into the doorway, however, the front door opened and Vernon Dursley stepped inside. Sirius froze and looked around.
Sirius was sure that if the situation hadn't been so serious, it would have been hilarious. But nobody was laughing when it came to this situation. Vernon's shocked face quickly turned to anger and as it did, Sirius could have sworn that each second he was becoming more purple in the face. His chest swelled up and his eyes widened in fury. Sirius was a dead dog.
"SKAT!" Vernon yelled furiously. He grabbed the coat hanger from beside the door and shook the hat and jacket off of it and strode forward, the hanger high over his head. Sirius whined in fright and quickly turned and ran into the kitchen.
Damn it, he thought in a panic when he realized he had closed the kitchen door behind him. It would have taken him at least ten seconds to get it opened in his dog form if he tried and by then he was sure to have had a split skull from the coat hanger that would be brought down upon him.
He vaguely thought of turning back into a man and just running for it, but the idea seemed less fun. Looking back as he ran into the dining room, Sirius mentally grinned when he realized the man was already gaining a sweat and breathing heavily, yet he was still a good ten feet away from him.
Time for a lot of fun and a little bit of payback that should last until I can come back and hurt you properly, Sirius hissed as he entered the dining room. The two went around in circles with Vernon chasing the dog and holding the coat hanger over his head while Sirius ran systematically around the house, destroying everything in his path. Furniture was upturned, plates and china were smashed, and the kitchen table was destroyed when Vernon fell on top of it trying to take a sharp turn.
After about five minutes Sirius decided that he had wasted enough time and started to make a beeline for the door, which was opened a crack, enough for Sirius to slip right through. Vernon, however, had other plans.
"OH, NO YOU DON'T!" Vernon yelled, and with a bout of effort, threw himself at Sirius and managed to grab one of his legs. Sirius turned around in surprise and looked at Vernon's face. His purple and plump face was shining with sweat, and in his eyes there was a gleam of not just triumph but a look that resembled a hungry animal.
Watch out for the purple bull.
Vernon Dursley had been the bull that Harry had been talking about. How could he have missed it before? What other human being in the world could change colors like a chameleon? Sirius had been thinking Harry's reference had been literal and to watch out for bulls that were actually purple. If Vernon's grip hadn't been tightening on his leg, Sirius would have snorted with laughter.
"GOTCHA, YOU FILTHY MUTT!" Vernon yelled and started to get to his feet, a wide smile breaking out on his face. Before he could register what happened, Vernon picked him up by the leg and jogged to a door in the kitchen before opening it and throwing Sirius in, who skidded on the cement door.
"You stay in there while I call the pound, you bloody brute," Vernon hissed and slammed the door shut. Sirius groaned in the way only dogs could (which was in a high pitched whine) and rolled over onto his stomach and looked around.
Sirius's senses suddenly picked up on a familiar scent and Sirius sniffed the air. He trotted closer, finally coming to the rear end of Vernon's car which was parked in the garage where he was locked in. Sirius took a deep breath and could only vaguely place the scent with something that had to do with Remus. Remus hadn't been here, had he?
Sirius transformed back into a human and took out his wand, tapping it on Vernon's trunk, which popped open easily.
"Lumos," he whispered, and a small trickle of light came from the tip of his wand. He directed it onto the carpeted floor of the trunk and looked at it, finding nothing but a spare tire and some old pieces of rope . . . There was something on the rope that caught Sirius's eye. It was a dark substance staining the thread, and when he brought his wand closer his breathing hitched. It was blood.
Sirius now knew why he had registered the scent with Remus. It was the strong smell of human blood that Sirius had known since his first trip as a dog into the Shrieking Shack. Remus had always ended up cutting himself somewhere and the scent had been familiar. But with the wolfsbane potion that he had been taken the last few years, the scent had become unfamiliar. Usually around Azkaban, it had been faint with the smell of death and decay. Now it was so strong it was nauseating, even in Sirius's human form. He could practically taste it and he shuddered.
Tentatively he reached into the trunk and pulled the rope out and examined it. He blinked and nearly jumped out of his skin when he realized he saw a flash of something behind his eyes. He quickly shut them again and found himself staring at a dark and secluded road. It was in the middle of the wood, and there was an old crooked sign on the side of the road that read Route Seventeen on it. Sirius wasn't sure, but when he searched behind his eyes, he could have sworn he heard the sound of a bang somewhere in the wooded area.
Sirius's eyes flew open and he dropped the rope back into the trunk and backed away from it. What was going on with him? What had he just seen? Did it have something to do with Harry? Or was he just going crazy? He knew Remus and Dumbledore were thinking that he was becoming unhinged, and Sirius was starting to believe them. Or maybe Harry was still trying to tell him something. That had to be it. He couldn't be crazy. There was only one way to find out if he really was or not . . .
Escaping Dursley's garage hadn't been difficult for the most part; basically he had just walked out the door. And now, two hours later, with an old diary in his pocket and a bloody length of rope in the other, he stood at the edge of a wood, looking down at a muggle map, tracing the line that read route seventeen with his index finger.
He had Apparated to the edge of Little Whinging before entering a rather empty diner and asking the waitress where he could find Route Seventeen. According to her, it was rather far, three towns over and she'd given him a map she had scrounged up somewhere in the kitchen. Now, after walking four hours under skies that threatened rain, he found himself on the edge of the wood of Route Seventeen. He didn't know how long it was going to take to get to wherever he was going. He didn't even know if he had a destination, or how many crooked Route Seventeen signs there were. He was just walking, hoping to find something.
He walked for what felt like hours. He knew it couldn't be as long as it felt because it was still light outside, and the air hadn't gotten any cooler than it would during the evenings. He knew it was terribly unsafe what he was doing - it was unsafe for him to have gone into the diner - but he didn't care. If he didn't find his godson there was nothing to live for anyway. Harry was Sirius's last lifeline, and he believed that he was Harry's. Who else would find him? Save him from the small dark place that he was so scared of? Who else would help him? Sirius would.
It was starting to rain, and Sirius shivered in the cold. He wasn't wearing the proper clothes for outdoor weather like this, since he had left Remus's house in such a rush. But there was nothing he could do about it now. He was sure as hell not about to go back to Remus's house and enter saying casually, "Hey, just thought I'd pop in for a jacket, walking down a long road in the woods searching for something that probably isn't there in the rain makes you a bit chilly,"
Sirius couldn't help but snort at the thought.
The rain started to fall heavier as the minutes passed and soon it was falling down in sheets. Sirius was totally soaked but he didn't care. Now at least he could say that he showered. Since Harry's disappearance, he hadn't had much thought as to personal hygiene, so he supposed walking in the rain constituted as a shower.
It was just after nightfall, with the rain still pouring down, an occasional lightning bolt and roars of thunder later that Sirius stopped on the road and looked up. Before him was an old crooked sign that read Route Seventeen, just like he had seen. He ran up to it and looked at it with wide eyes, looking around to the darkening woods. He touched the sign, expecting to see something that would lead him to his godson, something precise that would get his brain going as to a clue of where to go, but there was nothing.
"Where are you?" Sirius called in desperation, shouting over the pouring rain. "Harry, please . . ."
Sirius fell to his knees and looked up at the sign in total loss. The rain was starting to let up, and a cold wind blasted through his clothes. It was a dead end. Harry was not here, and probably had never been here.
This had to have been a dream, he thought to himself, it's not real.
And yet he found himself sitting there, kneeled on the side of the road in a puddle of mud, crying up at an old and dirty sign, for what? For absolutely nothing! Harry was really gone, dead possibly if not dying, and Sirius could not do a thing about it.
Sirius cried out loud when he felt something large and heavy hitting the side of his head. He yelled and grabbed it, swearing at the top of his lungs and he looked on the ground to find what in bloody hell hit him. All the pain was forgotten in less than a second however when he realized that it was a baseball. Not just any baseball, but a baseball with the name, Harry James Potter written on it. Sirius's hand dove into his pocket and found that the baseball was gone.
He looked up when he heard a giggle and his heart skipped a beat when he saw the small shadow of a boy running into the forest. He gaped at him for a moment before thrusting the baseball in the pocket, jumping to his feet and running as fast as his legs could carry him after the boy.
He was no longer in sight, but Sirius could hear the short pacing of small feet on wet leaves and puddles over the sounds of his own thundering footfalls. He could also hear the occasional giggle, sometime to his left or his right, telling him to change direction and keep going. He didn't realize he had fallen onto a thin path, and that underneath the leaves and on the layer of mud, there were no footprints of a small boy, but only his own.
And suddenly, he heard the little laugh again, just as he thrust himself into the clearing, the moment he ran inside however, the sounds stopped and he was left in total silence. There was no little boy in front of him, no rain at all to listen to, no wind, no animals - nothing. There was only a small clearing, with a muddy ground and a few moldy looking rocks. Sirius walked forward, studying the trees and the path he had realized he just came from. He stopped, only when he heard a crunching sound underneath his feet.
He looked down and lifted his foot, only to realize he had stepped on a pair of glasses, disguised by the shape of a dark rock. He picked them up and gasped. They were Harry's glasses.
Looking down at the muddy ground, he suddenly knew what he had to do. Dig.
He didn't know what was telling him to do this or why, but he just did. He instead conjured a shovel and started to dig through the thick and heavy mud. He didn't allow himself to think of what he would find once he dug: a dead body, a chamber, hidden evidence . . . It was too much to think about.
He remembered Lily telling him years ago about a girl in America who had been buried alive in a small coffin for six days. Muggles had built an air pump from a cottage that gave her enough air supply and a light bulb so that she would live, along with some water and a small bit of food. They did it for ransom from her rich father, and the police found her six days later alive. Perhaps Harry was in the same situation? He didn't want to think about what he would find, so he dug. He was pretty sure he should mentally prepare himself for the worst, but he didn't think he could brace himself. . .
His wet hair was in his eyes, and he was soaking wet and covered with mud. His hands were starting to becoming blistered due to his handling of the wooden shovel, and he was sure some of his fingers and toes were frost bitten, even if it was still October. His teeth were chattering and he was shivering, and he kept slipping in the mud, and the farther he got down, the harder it was to dig.
His shovel hit something solid, and Sirius stopped his digging and fell to his knees. He threw his shovel to the side and started to dig with his hands. He had hit what he was looking for, he knew, and he had a sense that it wasn't just some rock. He started to claw the mud out from under him, while it got stuck and jammed underneath his fingernails, and splattered onto his face and hair as he quickly ran his wet locks away from his eyes.
His fingers came in contact with something firm and solid. He swept away some mud and found that he was looking at a wrapped blanket, tight woven, as though it were hiding something . . .
He realized it before he had even looked at what color it was. The world around him seemed to sink away around him, seemed to drown as his sorrow leaked over the brim. He gave a howl like a wounded dog and buried his face in his muddy hands. It was over, he had been too late. Sirius's worst fears, which had been looming over him like a dark veil, suffocating him so that he couldn't breathe, now lay in front of him.
Harry was dead.
He had been murdered by his own uncle. His own uncle had murdered him and dumped his body in the middle of the wood without anybody knowing. He didn't need to look in the blanket to know that it was his godson's corpse. It was just something that he knew. He sobbed, his throat tearing with every tear. How could they? How could they! Harry was only a child! How could they do that to a child! To Harry, no less!
A part of him had known it all along. But seeing Harry, chasing him, and holding the diary and the baseball . . . It had all seemed so real. And the reality of it all had sent his hopes high, far beyond what they should have been. Now they had come crashing down on top of him, and he didn't know what to do. He was lost, even more hopelessly so than before. What was he going to do?
He didn't know how long he sat there and cried, he didn't know how long he cradled the bundle to his chest, not daring to open it and see inside, and he didn't know when exactly it had stopped raining either. It was only a loud pop that brought Sirius back down to earth long enough to look out of the hole to stare into his best friend's shocked face.
"He's dead, Remus!" Sirius moaned, tightening his grip. "He killed him!"
Dumbledore suddenly appeared at Remus's side, and looked down at Sirius with shame written on his face. Remus stepped forward and carefully slid down into the hole, still looking completely baffled. He looked at the blanket in Sirius's arms, and then stared Sirius dead in the face.
"What did you do?" he whispered.
Sirius' eyes widened. "Remus, it wasn't me!" Sirius yelled wildly. "I would never . . . Vernon Dursley did . . . "
"Sirius, I knew you were a little unhinged since Azkaban, but I never thought. . . Thought you were capable of this . . . Of murder." Remus said, and he took a step back.
"Remus, no . . . Vernon Dursley . . . Please . . . Please, Moony!" Sirius begged, but Remus only shook his head and took out his wand. Dumbledore appeared at his side with his own drawn.
"It's for the best, Sirius," Dumbledore said. "I'm sorry, but we cannot forgive murder. Murdering your own godson, no less," Dumbledore said and pointed his wand.
"No!" Sirius yelled. "Please, no!"
Remus gave Sirius one last cold and withering look before pointing his own wand and opening his mouth. Sirius snapped his eyes shut.
His eyes snapped open again, but this time he was not staring into the coldly hateful gaze of Remus Lupin, but rather into the curious and worried gaze of . . . Harry. Sirius gasped and sat up quickly, nearly knocking heads with the boy who jumped back, his glasses sliding to the tip of his nose from the haste. Sirius stared at him in shock.
"Harry?" he whispered, hardly daring to believe it.
"Merlin, Sirius, watch it!" Harry said, fixing his glasses. "You nearly gave me a concussion!"
Sirius ignored this as he blinked and quickly looked around. He was in Flitwick's office at Hogwarts. The memories of the night came flooding back to him - The Shrieking Shack, Remus, Peter, Harry and his friends, Snape, the Dementors . . .
He shot up and looked around the office, startling Harry, who stepped back next to the window. Dumbledore had talked to him after he had woken from the dementor attack. He must have fallen asleep . . . But how he had managed that, he had no idea. He looked over and suddenly realized that Harry was staring at him and that his friend, Hermione was outside the window . . . On a hippogriff?
"What in the world . . ." he muttered. "Harry, what is this?"
"We're getting you out of here," Harry said. "Come on, we have to hurry, there's no time . . ."
"How did you get here?" he asked as Harry stumbled outside of the window and Sirius held his waist to make sure he didn't fall. Watching Harry squeeze through the window, he couldn't help but see how small the window was, and how small Harry was to be able to fit through it. He had thought about it back when he saw Harry at Privet Drive last summer, but he had shrugged it off as being their distance from each other. But there was no denying it now. Harry looked like a first year and was just as scrawny as one, too.
"Get on – There's not much time," Harry panted. Sirius briefly looked over at Hermione as he climbed through the window and saw how she was clutching onto Harry for dear life. She's either afraid of heights, this hippogriff, or me. I'm going with the first two, though.
Sirius plopped himself down behind Hermione and grabbed onto her waist, feeling her trembling from fright. Harry quickly spelled the window shut again and with a kick and a cry of "Up, Buckbeak," they were off again. He had no idea how Harry had done what he was doing, but he was sure grateful for it.
Gazing at the back of his godson's head, he had to wonder if any of that was true. He couldn't remember the entire dream clearly, but it felt sort of like a premonition. Like it was telling him to do something. But what? Had Harry's relatives really abused him? Was it so bad that it would eventually lead to his murder? Or did the dementors just have a weird affect on his subconscious?
All he knew was that there was only one way to find out . . . He had to ask Harry.
They landed with a clatter on the battlements and Hermione jumped off first, looking extremely pleased to be on the ground again. Harry then got off next and looked up at Sirius.
"Get going before somebody sees you," Harry said. "They'll be at Flitwick's office any minute looking for you and seeing that you're gone."
Sirius stared at the two, realizing that there was one missing from their trio.
"What happened to that other boy? Ron?" Sirius croaked.
"He's going to be okay. He's still out of it, but Madam Pomfrey says she'll be able to make him better. Quick - go - "
But Sirius was still staring down at Harry. There was just this air of amazement when it came to staring at his own godson. He didn't know if he could be prouder of the boy. What other thirteen year old could successfully aid and rescue an escaped convict and get away with it? Only Harry Potter.
The dream came back to mind.
"Harry," he said seriously. "If you ever need me - if you ever are in trouble or just need somebody to talk to - I'll always be available. Don't hesitate to ask,"
"I won't," Harry said with a small smile, but it quickly vanished. "You'd better hurry."
"I'll be back soon," Sirius said. It somehow felt wrong to leave like this, and to make Harry go back to the Dursleys. He had been so excited . . . Too excited. "I promised you a home, and I will give it to you."
"Don't do anything rash, Sirius," Harry said. "Please, just go and stay safe."
"You are truly your father's son, Harry," he said and reared the hippogriff - Buckbeak - to take off. "I'll be back, I promise."
And with that, Sirius took off, determined to go far for only a little while. Because after things died down, he would be back to claim what was his.
And maybe to kill a few vermin in the process, he thought with a malicious grin as he and Buckbeak flew into the night.
Authors Note: Just so everybody is informed this is a ONESHOT. Which means there will be no more chapters after this. However, once I finish with SBTF and I see that I have free time and come up with some crazy outline, I may continue, but for now consider this a oneshot. I suppose it depends on whether I can find the time, an outline, and enough response. Anyways, thank you for reading.