Disclaimer: Sirius and the rest of the Marauders along with the setting of this story all belong to JKR. The only quasi-character I own is Dana—
A/N: This story takes place during the time frame of OotP. I really started to wonder what Sirius did/thought while he was alone during the time Harry was at Hogwarts. I would go absolutely crazy if I was confined to my house for such a long time. I also reckon that I'd get pretty depressed and really introspective. Not good…so…here's a rather short, kinda depressing story about Sirius' time at 12 Grimmauld Place.
"I hate this house." He grumbled to himself, almost savoring the taste of the words on his own tongue. A flavor he had not had the "distinct pleasure" of tasting since he was about sixteen years old. How much had happened since then? He didn't want to wonder. He didn't even feel like that same carefree, handsome boy who defiantly declared to his disappointed parents that he would never support Dark magic and that he was leaving to find a place on his own. Although, that statement wasn't entirely true, he wasn't completely carefree and never had been. That was the last time he'd been here… Not that the passage of time had dulled his sense of hate for this house and everything it stood for, mind you.
"Who ever could have guessed that I'd end up back here?" He gritted his teeth in frustration as he clomped around the empty house.
He was alone.
Everyone seemed to be doing something vitally important for the Order, and he, the one who could probably aid them the most, who was probably one of the most skilled among their number, was ordered to sit back and watch everything pass him by. "It was too much of a risk factor", as Dumbledore constantly reminded him, but it was all Sirius could do to keep from punching in Severus Snape's face every time he came around for a meeting, touting his accomplishments and bragging about exactly HOW important his position was to the Order. He could do much better than that insensitive, selfish sod. But as this thought traveled through his head, he pushed it guiltily from his mind, and continued to clomp up the stairs to the attic.
"Stay home and do the cleaning, Sirius," he said, in a squawking voice, not unlike Molly Weasley's. "Clean the attic! We could use some storage space! I do believe we should tackle those strange looking boxes in that corner, shouldn't we now? Why yes that's exactly what we'll do. Why bless my heart, we're out of cleaning solution! Would you be a good chap and whip us up some more Sirius?" He had now reached the door to the attic and opened the door so angrily that it flew back on its hinges and hit the wall, leaving a dent where the doorknob had struck. "I can do more than clean, you know," he said waspishly to nobody in particular as he stepped into the dark attic and slammed the door angrily behind him. He swore loudly as he walked into several large boxes, and without bothering to try to illuminate the room, he lashed out, taking out his pent-up frustration on the dusty, inanimate bits of his past that surrounded him. Panting slightly, he sat down on the nearest box and pulled out his wand.
"Lumos," he said, waving his wand. The area around him was brought into a clarity that contrasted sharply with the dark shadows that lay outside of the wand's path of light. As he cast the beam around different areas of the room, he glanced around at the attic, every inch of space crammed with boxes, stacks of paper, and other miscellaneous mystery items. The only free space was a narrow, dust-covered path that wound and twisted throughout the rows of boxes. It was clear that no one had been up here for ages. He felt like he was back in detention at Hogwarts, given some impossibly complicated and excruciating cleaning task to accomplish in only one night.
"But at least at Hogwarts, I always had James or even sometimes Remus or Peter with me. Now I have no one." As he said this, he hoped that the fact that he had begun to talk aloud to himself did not indicate any loss of sanity on his part. He continued to glance sadly about the room, starting when he saw his own reflection in a cracked antique mirror propped up against the opposite wall. Realizing it was only his reflection only seemed to agitate him more. He tried to avoid his reflection, not wanting to see what he had become. Even from across the room, the dead look in his eyes was apparent, the pale and emaciated look of his skin glaringly visible in the feeble light his wand provided.
He dropped his wand onto the hard wooden floor with a clatter, and, with his elbows perched precariously on his knees, buried his face in his hands. His mind was filled with "what ifs". What if he had never made Peter secret-keeper for James and Lily? What if he hadn't suspected Remus? Would they have been stronger and more effective united against Voldemort? What if he had managed to stop Peter? What if he'd never been sent to Azkaban? What if… he stopped himself. When had he become so introspective? He'd never used to be this way…
When had he become so useless? Such a waste of space? The old Sirius would have disobeyed Dumbledore by now. He'd be fighting alongside everyone else. The old Sirius. What he would give to get everything back. Himself. His friends. Just to have things the way they used to be. When he thought he was on top of the world. Four best friends. A place of his own. What else could any teenage boy ask for?
Sirius' face blanched visibly at this thought. He sighed into the palms of his hands. Four friends. He reminisced. Look what fifteen or sixteen years had done to them all. One was dead, one was a traitor, one, a werewolf, who couldn't be employed outside of the Order, and then there was himself, an escaped, falsely accused … what? When did things get so complicated? So immensely difficult? He ran his hands through his hair, then stood up huffily. His anger rather deflated now, he was left with a hollow, heavy feeling in his chest. He stooped to retrieve his wand, still lit, and shuffled dully to the tiny window on the adjacent wall. He opened it and stood for a few moments, face turned to the cool breeze blowing through the window. If he closed his eyes, he could almost forget that he was in this hellhole of a house, reduced to doing house elf-like chores. He sighed again, and stepped away from the window. Mechanically, he started to sort through the various papers and boxes he had overturned in his fit. Cleaning didn't make him feel effective or productive, exactly, but at least it distracted him from thinking for a while; made him feel like he wasn't completely useless to the Order. "But that's what you are, isn't it? Useless." He heard the biting little voice in the back of his mind talking, the one that sometimes reminded him of Snape. "Useless Sirius Black, the little house maid." With immense strength of will, Sirius ignored the voice and again settled into sorting papers.
How long had he been sitting here? "It's been three hours at least." He thought to himself. He stood slowly, his back and legs stiff from sitting on the creaky, hard floor. He stretched and as he did, took in exactly how little he had accomplished. A bit of his frustration returned to him as he stood there.
"What the hell. I'm never going to use this garbage anyway." He took out his wand, poked deftly at the papers, and lit them with dancing, heatless violet-coloured flames that quickly burned all the papers, yet left no scorch marks upon the floor. Walking away from the pile of burning paper, he conjured up a bottle of Ogden's Olde Fire Whiskey, and took a long gulp out of it. He had liked drinking well enough when he was a teenager but had taken to it strongly after his escape from Azkaban. Being able to not think for a little while was worth the excruciating, head pounding hangover in the morning. With the alcohol slowly dulling his senses and ebbing away at his anger, he seemed less reluctant to hack away at the piles of papers, burning them away in flickering purple balls of fire. Restless, he weaved in and out of the isles created by the thousands of boxes. Although he had been working for the better part of four hours, he had only succeeded in created a small clear space towards the front of the attic. Everything else was hopelessly cluttered. For whatever reason, he began to gently kick the boxes with the toe of his shoe as he passed, listening to the oddly comforting sound of cardboard or thin wood and thinking of nothing in particular, his mind miraculously clear for the first time that day.
Bump. Bump. Bump. Bump. Bump. Thud.
"What?" Sirius wheeled around, trying to find the object that produced the offending noise. He stooped down to get a better look. He ran his hand along the row of boxes; cardboard, cardboard, cardboard, and aha! He straightened up triumphant. From running his hand along the object's dusty side, he ascertained that it was some sort of wooden trunk. A wooden trunk…for some reason that sparked a thought in his head, but he couldn't quite place it. He began to quickly shift mounds of paper and cardboard off of the large wooden trunk. When he had finally uncovered the lid, he bent down to search, in vain, for any sort of label or writing. Impatiently, he swept the dust aside with his bare hands and moved his face even closer to the lid. He moved back in surprise when he discovered that the trunk was his own. Then he began to remember. His Hogwarts trunk. It had somehow got sent back to his parents' home at 12 Grimmauld place instead of to Sirius' own home after his graduation from Hogwarts. He had sent an owl to his mother, requesting for it to be returned to him, but she, out of pure spite, had refused. His trunk. He had completely forgotten about it. He couldn't even recall one thing left in it.
"It is odd," he thought, "that my dear old mum didn't burn it with the rest of my things… perhaps in her old age she'd gone a bit touched in the head." He inwardly shrugged and, grabbing the bottle of fire whiskey in one hand, and one handle of the trunk in the other, focused on dragging the trunk out into the small area he had cleared. It took some patience, as the aisles were barely wide enough to admit someone Sirius' size, but Sirius, breathing hard again, finally managed to drag the trunk into an open space.
He plunked down next to the trunk, eager anticipation and excitement filling him. He tried the latch on the trunk, and for a second, he thought it worked. A moment later, he was forced to dive behind a large stack of boxes, silently blessing the clutter as he dove, as a large number of hexes and curses came flying out of the box. When all the different coloured spells had finished bouncing off of the walls and had disappeared, Sirius turned his head to gaze at the trunk, still stuck shut, a wide grin plastered on his face. "How could I have forgotten?" He wondered aloud. He supposed this had been the reason that his trunk had never been disposed of. In fourth year, after a particularly nasty prank involving owls and ice water the Marauders had pulled on the Snape and his lot, Wormtail had become convinced that someone within Gryffindor House was leaking information to the Slytherins. As the group had several important projects going on, such as the Animagi project and the Marauders' Map, Wormtail's ideas seemed valid. Wormtail had them so hyped up and oddly paranoid that they had all put special hexes on their trunks that would go off if the correct phrase wasn't spoken aloud by the designated trunk's owner. It was one of Wormtail's more brilliant ideas, and sure enough, a puny little second year, Bernie Ricolds, showed up to breakfast covered in a number of particularly nasty hexes. All four Marauders had sniggered into their porridge that morning.
Sirius chuckled to himself at this nearly forgotten scrap of his past. Getting up from behind the stack of boxes, he began to circle the trunk, muttering to himself. "I, Sirius Black, Padfoot, and Marauder Extraordinaire, solemnly swear that I am up to no damn good." Preparing himself for another quick dive behind the boxes, Sirius was slightly amazed when the trunk's lock clicked open and he was able to open up the lid without being put at risk for developing Jelly Legs or the like. Kneeling on the floor in front of the trunk, he slowly raised the lid, unconsciously holding his breath. He fully opened the lid and surveyed the contents within. Not once in his memory could he truly remember cleaning out his trunk (aside from clothing articles) during any one of his seven years at Hogwarts. The trunk was overflowing with books, robes, candy, and other miscellaneous objects that he couldn't identify at a first glance. The first thing he happened to spot was his Transfiguration text. He pulled the book out by its spine, and simultaneously, hundreds of little slips of parchment came cascading down from within the books' pages. Sirius looked vaguely puzzled for a moment, but he grinned again when he realized that the slips of paper were all of his old detention notices from one particular year or another, that he had saved up. He vaguely remembered betting Professor McGonagall that he'd have enough to cover the entire wall of the Gryffindor House common room. As he recalled, he had won that bet. He laughed softly to himself as he read the various offenses for which he and his fellow Marauders had been given detentions… slugs in the Slytherin's beds… exploding cauldrons in Potions… lighting Snape's hat on fire during a feast… and suddenly, Sirius was immersed back in memories of the Marauding days, the only time in his life when he'd felt truly alive. He became almost childlike in his awe and amusement. He leafed through the small squares of parchment gently, as though handling some great treasure.
His laughter and smile died a little as he reached one particular piece of parchment. In fact, his face became rather dark and strained. He remembered the reason for this detention perfectly…oh yes he did. This was the detention, or rather the three weeks worth of detentions, he had received for telling Snape, the slimy git, how to get into the Whomping Willow to get at Remus while he was in his wolf-like state. He remembered his vague feelings of anger that had been directed at James and Peter. They had both tried to talk Sirius out of it, saying that Snape wasn't worth killing. But he was. They didn't understand. Walking around, threatening to reveal Remus' secret. Threatening to ruin everything they'd worked on. Snape needed to be taught a lesson for being meddlesome, and if it had resulted in his death, so be it. Unfortunately, James stepped in at the last second, snatching Snape out of the Willow just in time. Snape had already seen Remus and was cowering, immovable in the corner, and James had had to drag him out. Sirius had followed James to the Willow but had blatantly refused to assist with James' heroic saving of Snape. Even though Snape didn't die, it was worth seeing him scared enough to wet his pants and then some. It wasn't the fact that Snape almost died that tainted this otherwise amusing memory. It was the fact that James opposed Sirius' idea of a joke so strongly. Sirius admitted that he valued James' opinion more than he valued anyone else's in the entire world.
"But still," Sirius reasoned sadly with himself, "I'd rather have James disagreeing with me instead of no James at all."
He finished flipping through the detention slips, gathered them into one neat pile, and pushed them tenderly aside. In a few moments, he was again rooting through his old trunk; the bottle of fire whiskey lay forgotten on a dusty crate. He sat there, pulling out objects, bathing in many happy memories, long forgotten through the passage of time. A long while later, he had gotten merely halfway through the entire trunk, the pile of unpacked items mounting higher and higher around him. He was positively exuberant, living in the comforting shelter of his memories. James and Lily were not dead. Peter was not a traitor. There was no Azkaban.
He picked a pair of black school robes out of the trunk and made to chuck them into the pile, until he noticed something stuck in the folds of one of the robes. He picked up the item, thinking it to be another scrap of parchment, perhaps another piece that was used in developing the Marauders' map; he had already found several of those. He was wrong. Unfolding the paper gingerly, he discovered the paper to be not parchment, but two photographs, stacked one on top of the other, well worn and slightly yellowed with age, and folded into eighths. Hand shaking slightly, he reached to unfold the top photograph. He remembered these pictures. Remembered them as if he'd only seen them yesterday. The first picture was of his sixteen year old self and a dark brown-haired, hazel-eyed girl. He had not seen her face for nearly fourteen years. Dana…his Dana . He fingered the corner of the photograph gently. In the picture she was smiling shyly, unspoken laughter twinkling in her eyes as she gently shoved him away from her. He remembered taking this picture with her. At a party in the Gryffindor common room during seventh year. She'd tried to dodge the camera for a while, shying away, but in the end, she had agreed to sit awkwardly in front of the camera so they could be photographed together. And a little less than two years after that, she'd died… been killed by Voldemort. He took one more look into her eyes, at her face, and her laughing smile, and turned the picture over. He was surprised and yet not surprised that there was writing there:
(My surrogate big brother, partner in crime, love of my life etc., etc.—I'm kidding about that last one—at least I'm pretty sure I am…)
Anyway-I'm bored, so I'm writing you a note on the back of this picture. In case you're wondering, we're in your dorm with James and Remus and Peter and you're hanging upside down off your bed (who knew your face could get so red?) asking me to go snog you in a closet and, in case you're wondering this, too, I'm shaking my head 'no'.
Anyway, I don't really Ok thanks for throwing that pillow at my head. You made me forget what I was going to write—you useless bollocking sod. But don't worry, I'll forgive you, because I always do, and I probably will go snog you in a broom closet.
P.S. Now that I'm looking at it, I really like this picture of us. You better keep this to remind yourself of your youth in your old age. I won't need it because I'm going to look just as amazing when I kick it.
Sirius half smiled, half frowned at the note. He didn't think he'd ever read it properly before. He remembered they shared a half-joking fear of growing old. He sighed to himself. "Oh Dana, if only you knew of the truth in your own words…" He folded the picture up again and placed it securely into his pocket, taking care not to fold any of the corners.
He then turned to the second photo. This one he remembered, too. It had been taken the day of his graduation from Hogwarts. He didn't remember who had taken it, but it was of the four Marauders. They were clad in billowing black dress robes worn specially for the occasion. They had their arms wrapped around one another and were waving and smiling jovially at the camera. Sirius gazed avidly, almost hungrily at the picture. No one could understand how badly he wished they were all together again. That wasn't too much to ask, right? He just wanted his friends. His best friends. Sirius moved the picture closer to his face in order to look more closely at each of his friends' faces in turn. He looked at James' face first. James, who had been like a surrogate brother to him. His sounding board. Prongs. He then looked at Remus' face, not tired and drawn as usual, but vibrant and alive. Sirius could tell that the full moon was a long way off. Remus…the voice of reason. He was the intelligent one. The one that everybody trusted…and then…Sirius' eyes moved on…Peter. Peter Pettigrew. He wished that he could say that he'd never liked Peter. That he'd only pretended to be his friend because he was so slow and talentless. That he'd felt sorry for the poor, helpless sod. But then, he'd be lying. The truth was, Peter could be as clever as any of them. He was just clumsier and not as good-looking or powerful, magic-wise, as the other three of his friends. Sirius had actually rather enjoyed his role of protecting poor Peter, who always got picked on at school. Sirius studied his face more closely than he had studied either of his other two friends. He wondered if he could catch a glimmer of the darkness or treachery in Peter's pale face. He searched for anything—a shadow, the tiniest clue. Had Peter already known that he was going to betray one of his best mates when this picture was taken?
Sirius sighed and folded up this picture more quickly than he had the first photograph. It was no use pondering these things when he couldn't change the past. He placed the second photo into his pocket, alongside the first one. With a wave of his wand, he repacked his trunk. He would save the rest for some other day.
He picked up his wand and opened the attic door, stepping down onto the stair that led to the second floor. He talked to himself as he took each step.
"I am not useless."
"I am trying as hard as I can."
"Nothing feels good enough."
"I wish that I could do better."
"Being stuck here makes me know that I can't."