(December 24, 1987)
Sirius knew that Devlin was leaving before Harry did.
When the animagus had finally untangled himself from Harry, he gently covered the child with a blanket, and quietly left the room. It was quite early in the morning, earlier than usual for Sirius to be conscious, but for some reason he had awakened and could not return to sleep. He paused in the hall, halted in mid-stride by an odd feeling, and stared out the window at the falling snow with a strange sense of apprehension.
Devlin sat at the door, in his dog form, watching Sirius as he stepped downstairs. Sirius could count on one hand the number of times the boggart had spoken to him since they had come back to the Safehouse. Devlin had not seemed to take kindly to either Sirius or Remus, despite Harry's continued argument to the contrary, and Sirius was quite unnerved to be in a room alone with the silent creature.
However, this morning Devlin had something to say. I'm going.
Sirius suddenly remembered Harry explaining that Devlin often left for a week or so for no apparent reason, and that the dog had always returned home safely. For some reason, Sirius felt that this was different; the way the boggart spoke those words made it seem…final.
"You're…leaving? For how long?"
Devlin looked straight at him, in his eyes the now-familiar gleam that made him seem wiser than any animal could ever be. At the same time, Sirius became suddenly aware of the aura of wildness and oldness that surrounded the creature. I may not return for a long time. And I may not return at all.
Sirius paused. "What about Harry?"
The creature was silent for a moment. He has you now, it said, and Sirius couldn't help but feel that the words were spoken with…bitterness?
Sirius shook his head. "But he needs you. You were his first friend. You know more about him than…anyone. He loves you, Devlin."
If the animagus wasn't mistaken, the boggart's eyes softened a little. He does, I suppose. But the matter remains the same—the shapeshifter and his boggart always part at the end of the training, and Harry's training ended a very long time ago.
"That doesn't matter," Sirius said—however little he knew about this creature, he knew that it would hurt Harry badly if the boggart left. "He needs you."
And furthermore, the boggart continued as if he had not heard Sirius speak at all, It is…difficult for me to remain forever cooped up in one place. I was not meant for this, and Harry knows it. He always knew that I would have to leave him one day.
Sirius sighed slowly. "You know he'll be hurt." He said, meeting those strange eyes.
Devlin nodded. This is the way it has to be.
"Won't you wait to say goodbye?" Sirius asked.
The boggart looked away. I am not very good at goodbyes, he said softly as he rose to his feet. Then he spoke quietly, the voice in Sirius's mind echoing so dimly that Sirius couldn't be sure he had heard anything at all. And I believe that if Harry begged me to stay, I would.
Sirius opened the door uncertainly. He watched as the dog slid past him onto the step outside. The boggart then stopped suddenly, as if a thought had suddenly occurred to him. Devlin turned back to face Sirius. Sirius Black, he said. I feel you should know that I would never leave Harry if I didn't know he would be well cared for. And if I cannot protect him, I am glad he will be in your care. Sirius blinked, rather shocked at the compliment.
And with that the padded away soundlessly. Sirius watched him stepping carefully through the snow, his dark fur becoming spotted with the falling snowflakes. The animagus watched until the dog slipped into the dark woods outside, and then he gently closed the door.
By the time Harry came downstairs a little later, Sirius had already told Remus what happened. They were sitting on one of the sofas in silence, each lost in their thoughts and their questions. At the sound of Harry's feet on the stairs, the somber pair suddenly looked up quickly, exchanging apprehensive glances.
"Wow," Harry said as he came to stand before them. "I'm the last one up for a change. Even Devlin woke up before me."
Sirius and Remus exchanged glances.
"Harry," Remus said slowly, "perhaps you should sit down."
Harry blinked, looking at Remus with a curious expression. Remus motioned for Harry to sit between his guardians "Okay," he said, sitting obediently.
"Well," Sirius fumbled, "I guess I should just come out and tell you. This morning, after I woke up, I came downstairs and found that Devlin was leaving."
Harry just looked at them oddly and shrugged. "Okay, I guess. I told you, he always leaves for a while. But he always comes back. He'll be back soon enough."
Sirius shook his head. "No, Harry. He left," He paused, then hurried on, "and I don't think he's coming back this time."
Harry stared at Sirius with for a long time, as if he were waiting for the punch line. He slowly looked to Remus, whose expression mirrored the somber look on Sirius's face. Harry's hands gripped his knees, and he shook his head slowly in disbelief. "He's…gone?"
Sirius and Remus both nodded anxiously. Harry paused, frozen for a moment, before he suddenly slumped back into the sofa. Sirius saw in the child's face that what Devlin had said was true—the slow, shocking realization that was creeping over Harry's face meant that Harry had known that the boggart would leave him one day. But the child had obviously not imagined that it would be so soon.
"I can't believe it. Why wouldn't he tell me?"
"I think…I mean, he might have said that he'd stay if you asked him to, and he really felt he needed to leave."
Harry looked away. "Alright." The child said tonelessly.
"Are you—" Sirius began.
Breakfast was rather quiet, as Harry wasn't speaking much. Remus and Sirius often unsuccessfully tried to draw him into their conversations, but in the end, the two opted to leave the shapeshifter alone for a little while.
But then the rest of the day was quiet, and serious. There were no fights, no games, no laughter. Harry ate his meals in silence, and left his guardians to exchange worried glances behind him. Remus went upstairs at the end of the day to read Harry his usual bedtime story, but by the time he entered the shapeshifter's room, the boy was already asleep.
Christmas Eve dawned with a heavy snowstorm that battered the walls of the Safehouse and kept its inhabitants close to the fireside. Remus and Sirius relaxed on the sofas downstairs and shared a few conversations and stories, but each kept a close watch on the shapeshifter who sat in the far corner near a window.
Harry was curled up in an armchair, a warm blanket wrapped around his shoulders as he peered out into the storm. From time to time, the snow outside rattled the window or made eerie whistling sounds that surprised the boy and momentarily removed him from his depressing thoughts, but for the most part Harry sat motionless in the chair, a faraway look in his eyes.
Remus had attempted to cheer the child up by bringing him a cup of hot chocolate (which, of course, had more marshmallows in it than actual drink), but the boy had only granted the werewolf a soft smile and a few sips of the warm beverage before he carefully placed it aside to continue staring out into the storm.
In the end, Sirius and Remus had retreated back toward the fireside in low spirits. "It's the day before Christmas," Sirius said suddenly to Remus, though he was careful to be quiet so Harry wouldn't hear, "and he shouldn't be like this. He should be bouncing up and down and wondering what his presents will be. He should be trying to get us all to go to sleep at noon so tomorrow will come sooner."
Remus sighed, and glanced over at the shapeshifter, who sighed softly, still oblivious to his guardians' attention. "What are we supposed to do? His best friend—his only friend—just left, and probably for good." The werewolf slowly sipped from a cup of hot chocolate. "I don't know if he'll cheer up before Christmas."
"Well, we've got to do something about this. He can't spend the entire day like this."
They were silent for a few moments, and Remus stared thoughtfully into the fire. Sirius watched the other man warily as the werewolf's face showed the ideas turning about in his mind. Remus suddenly fixed his eyes on Sirius. "You need to go talk to him."
"Me?" Sirius spluttered. "I can't talk to him. You're the one who's good at this sort of thing. You should do it."
Remus shook his head and leaned back against the chair. "No, I think you ought to go do it." He eyed Sirius critically. "You're getting better at the whole godfather thing."
Sirius's mouth opened and then closed. "That's not a reason," he said, rather sullenly. But Remus fixed him with that Just Get On With It, You Know I'm Right stare that he had used so often back at Hogwarts.
The animagus reluctantly stood. "Some Christmas present Devlin gave us," he grumbled.
Harry didn't move when Sirius pulled an armchair next to him, not that the animagus had expected him to. Harry didn't even notice when Sirius sat down and proceeded to stare at him for several minutes. The animagus thought he could faintly hear Harry humming something softly and slowly, but he couldn't be quite sure. When Sirius finally tired of being ignored, he gently placed his hand on Harry's arm. The boy looked at him in surprise.
"Hey, Sirius," Harry said faintly.
"Hey. How are you doing?"
"I'm okay." Sirius gave Harry a look. "Well…not too good, I guess."
"That's what I thought," the animagus said. He patted his lap for Harry to come sit in it, and the shapeshifter slowly obliged, curling up in Sirius's arms. It was silent for a moment as the pair observed the swirling snowflakes in the window, and as Sirius gathered his thoughts.
"Sirius?" Harry said suddenly.
"Why did he leave?"
Sirius paused, not sure what to say. "I can't say for sure, Harry," he said slowly.
"It's just that…he stayed with me for so long. I remember him saying that boggarts always left after the training was over, but he stayed for so much longer. I just thought…maybe…"
"…that he was planning on staying forever?" Sirius finished. He felt his charge nod into his chest. Sirius ran a hand through the messy hair beneath his chin. "I think," he said, almost confidently, "that he stayed as long as he could."
Harry was quiet. Then, "What do you mean?"
"I don't think he could stay forever—maybe it's in his nature not to. But I think, because he loved you, he stayed as long as he was able." Sirius waited for a response, but Harry was silent in his arms. Sirius continued to run a hand through Harry's hair every now and then in a comforting gesture, as the pair listened to the wind howling outside. They stayed that way for a very long time, and Sirius's legs began to fall asleep under Harry's weight. His body became stiff and slightly restless after being still for such a long time, but Sirius continued to sit in silence, content to hold Harry in his arms.
After some time, Sirius felt something warm and wet on his chest. His brow furrowed and he shifted slightly, craning his neck to see that Harry was crying. His tears were running silently down his cheeks, and he wept with an almost calm expression: his face was not distorted in sadness but rather looked only melancholy. He breathed sharply in little sobs every now and then, and he clutched Sirius's shirt as though it were a lifeline.
"It's alright, Harry," Sirius murmured soothingly, pulling Harry closer. "It's alright."
Harry sniffled, and for a few moments there was only silence again. Then, Harry spoke, in a voice almost to quiet for Sirius to hear.
"I thought that maybe if I was a good friend to him, he would stay. I thought if I was good to him, maybe he wouldn't…" Harry's sobs grew a little louder. "It's not fair. I wanted him to stay."
Sirius was quiet for a long time. He held Harry close and rubbed circles on the boy's back, murmuring soothing words into his ear every now and then. The boy's tears slowed and his crying quieted, and a slow smile spread across Sirius's face.
"Harry," he said softly. "It doesn't have to be forever, you know."
Harry looked up at his godfather, his green eyes shimmering with sadness. "What do you mean?"
"I think...I know that you'll meet Devlin again someday. And I have the feeling that he'll come to check on you more times than you'll know."
Harry sniffled again. "You think so?"
"Yes. And I bet, if he was watching you right now, he wouldn't want you to be crying over him like this. He'd want to see you strong and happy." Harry turned his head back down so that it rested on Sirius's chest and his hair brushed against his godfather's chin.
"Strong and happy," Harry repeated slowly, as if committing the words to memory. The wind howled especially violently against the window pane as Harry curled further into his guardian's warm embrace. "Sirius?" he said after a moment.
"You really think he'll come back?"
"I know he will."
Sirius paused to smile into Harry's mane of hair. "I know because if it were me, I don't think I could bear being away from you for very long."
Harry picked his head up to look Sirius in the eye once more, and his green eyes flickered across his guardian's face as though he were searching for something. Upon finding whatever it was, a warm smile graced his features and he hugged the man tightly. "Thank you, Sirius," he murmured.
And as Harry smiled to himself as he looked out into the snow with hope in his eyes, Sirius decided that perhaps he really was getting better at this whole godfather thing.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
-An Irish Farewell (1)
(1) I always imagined that Devlin (and boggarts in general) came from Ireland or maybe Scotland. Don't ask me why. I suppose I've always imagined that the cooler, wilder magical beings came from these two places. And when I mentioned that Harry was humming, I imagined that he was humming this song.
A/N: I can't believe it's OVER! I hate endings. I always have. At the end of every movie, every book, every story, I feel so depressed. I want to know what happens next—did they really live happily ever after? Or were there more adventures after that?
This chapter felt so hard to write, because I want to know the rest and to imagine more stories for this universe. I want to see what happens to Devlin, and how Harry grows up.
2014 Edit: This story has been finished for several years now, and though I promised a sequel at one point, I'm not sure if or when it will actually happen. I finished Shift around the same time that I graduated from college, and thanks to real life it can be very hard to find the time and motivation for writing fanfiction anymore. This is not to say that a sequel will never happen, but it's definitely not at the forefront of my life anymore. (The moral of this story is that if you are in high school or college, write every free second of every day, because you might not get the chance again for quite some time.)
More feasibly, I do hope to at the very least post a one-shot at some point in the future to give a glimpse of what might have happened had I written the sequel as planned way back when, so hopefully that will appease some of you!
Most importantly, I want to thank everyone who has ever reviewed Shift from the bottom of my heart. I know it's been a while since I finished the story, but I still read every single review, and it means a lot to hear that my story has touched you in some way. Thanks so much to everyone who has reviewed, to everyone who has made me feel better, and to everyone who has helped me to become a better writer. I couldn't have done any of this without you guys. You're sincerely amazing and wonderful people, and I always love to hear from you!
Happy reading until next time. I hope we meet again soon!