Sirius Black was nervous. It had been several days since he had heard from Wormtail, and as his friend was now responsible for the safety of Lily and James he had expected almost daily updates. Of course, this was Wormtail. He was notorious for forgetting to do the important things in life. When they were practicing the animagus transformation during school they had had to appoint Moony as Wormtail's guardian. He had to be reminded to practice every day for the first year. And then when he finally started to practice on his own he had to be reminded to not do so alone. It took three rather painful partial transformations that he couldn't get himself out of before this lesson sunk in. But this was different. This was the lives of the three most important people in the world, at least in Sirius' world. Thus it was that Sirius decided to go check on Wormtail that afternoon. Having decided that he would just go in his robes—it was Halloween, there were lots of people out in robes and capes—Sirius was content to ride his bike over, as opposed to flying it. He wasn't concerned enough to need to hurry.
Sirius had ridden to Wormtail's hiding spot several times since the Fidelius charm had been performed last week. So when he rode in and didn't feel the wards that he himself had created, he got worried. He jumped off the bike and ran into the small house.
There was no one there.
Sirius Black, Marauder, play boy, and fearless member of the Order of the Phoenix, was terrified. Wormtail had strict instructions never to leave. No one may have known that he was the Potter's secret keeper, but they certainly knew he was a friend. It was too dangerous for him to be seen. Turning hastily around, Sirius ran to his motorbike. Screw the Statue of Secrecy, he had to get to Godric' Hollow. Immediately.
The Muggle woman who saw a young man dressed in robes jump on a motorbike and take off into the air put the sight down to some kind of Halloween prank and moved on with her shopping.
Sirius saw the smoke before he could even see the house. When he landed he didn't even turn off the engine, instead launching himself at the house. There in the front room his worst nightmare came true. Lying on the floor, his eyes glassy in death, was Prongs. Sirius collapsed next to his best friend and brother in everything but name. For the first time since he was a little boy he broke down and cried over the body. He had failed them, and now Prongs was dead.
It took several long minutes for Sirius to realize that while Prongs was dead he still needed to find Lily and Harry. He owed it to his best friend to take care of them if he could. It seemed to take years for him to climb the stairs; he was so scared of what he would find. He could see the smoke billowing out of Harry's room, and he had little hope. Voldemort would not have left his godson alive.
Lying on the floor of Harry's room, Sirius found Lily with the glassy eyes of death. Sirius could see her hand clutching something through the bars of the crib. Even in death Lily refused to let go of her son. Needing to see it all, Sirius walked shakily to the crib, knowing he would find his godson, the only hope for the wizarding world, lying dead.
He looked over the edge to find bright green eyes staring back at him.
Sirius collapsed against the crib, the sight of Harry, alive and reaching for his favorite uncle, was too much. More tears fell, but this time they were tears of joy. Harry had survived. And Sirius would not fail Prongs again. He would take care of Harry in place of his lost best friend.
"Siri?" Harry's small hand was tugging on the hair of his godfather. Shaking, Sirius looked up.
"Hey kiddo. Uncle Sirius is here." He reached down and pulled Harry into his arms. It was only then that Sirius noticed the cut across Harry's forehead. It was shaped like a bolt of lightning.
"Siri? Where Mommy?"
"She's not here, kiddo, but Uncle Sirius is going to take care of you. Don't you worry."
Shielding Harry by keeping the boy's head tucked into his chest, Sirius carried him out of the room. He didn't want Harry to have to see his mother on the floor. The boy was too young to understand. Sirius was on the stairs when he heard a commotion in the front room. Someone had come for Harry. But Sirius was not going to let any harm come to his godson. He was the only thing left of Prongs and Lily. His wand held firmly in front of him, he advanced carefully into the sitting room.
"Get out you bastards! You can't have him."
"Sirius!" The large form of Hagrid was bent over James' body, checking if he was alive. Sirius visibly relaxed. Hagrid was one of the exceptionally few people in the world that he knew without a doubt was on the side of good. "You have Harry!"
"Yes. And I'm taking him home. I won't let anyone else hurt him."
"Sirius, Professor Dumbledore sen' me to get him. Says Harry needs to go to his family to protec' him."
"No. He's my godson. I will protect him."
"Sirius, I know how upse' you mus' be. But the Professor was pretty sure abou' it. Harry has to go to his family."
Sirius hesitated for a few seconds. He knew that Dumbledore would not risk Harry's life by placing him where he wasn't safe. But Sirius had no intention of letting Petunia raise Harry. He had heard the stories of her and her husband from Lily. And yet, Sirius knew that Dumbledore thought he was the secret keeper. If he tried to take Harry know he would probably wake up in the morning to find Dumbledore's wand trained on him. He would have to talk to Dumbledore first.
"Okay, Hagrid. But will you take a note to Dumbledore for me?"
"Sure, Sirius. Leas' I can do."
Sirius handed Harry gently over to Hagrid, then hastily scribbled a note and handed it to the large man. "Take my bike, Hagrid. And make sure Harry gets there safely. I'm going to take care of some things here."
Hagrid clapped a large hand on his shoulder, evidently thinking he was comforting Sirius instead of practically driving him to his knees. Sirius watched him fly off into the night before setting his shoulders and turning back to the fallen form of his best friend. He was going to collect as many things as he could for Harry from the house. He wanted Harry to remember his parents and know how much they loved him, but there was no way Sirius was going to set foot in this house again. His mind made up, Sirius prowled through the house; collecting all the things he thought Harry might want later on.
Hagrid was appalled to see the James Potter lying dead on the floor. He should not have had to die. But You-Know-Who didn't care who he was killing. At least Harry had survived, even if he wasn't completely unscathed. Hagrid was quite relieved when the gash on Harry's forehead had shown no signs of bleeding. He didn't think it was safe to take Harry to St. Mungo's. The little boy in his arms didn't seem to know what had happened today. Hagrid guessed that Sirius had intentionally kept Harry from seeing the dead body of his father and mother. Good thing, too. Harry was going to have a hard enough time without those memories. Harry seemed happy at the moment; he had fallen asleep just as they were flying over Bristol. He wish he could have left Harry with Sirius. Better Sirius raising Harry than Muggles. But Dumbledore had been very specific. He was to get Harry and bring him to Little Whinging. And Dumbledore always knew best.
With a roar Hagrid brought the motorbike down onto the street in front of a waiting Professor Dumbledore.
"Hagrid, at last. And where did you get that motorcycle?"
"Borrowed it, Professor Dumbledore, sir. Young Sirius Black lent it to me." The Professor's face went hard at that, but Hagrid didn't understand why it would upset him. Perhaps he was imagining the anger in the Professor's eyes. "I've got him, sir."
"No problems, were there?"
"No, sir—house was almost destroyed, but Sirius was there when I got there, and he let me have Harry."
"Sirius Black was there? With Harry?" Hagrid didn't think he was imagining the anger in the Professor's eyes this time.
"Yes, sir. Sirius said he was goin' to take Harry home. But I told him how it was you who sen' me. Sirius gave him too me then, but he aske' me if I could give you this."
Hagrid handed the hastily scribbled note to Dumbledore, who immediately opened it.
I'll be coming for Harry soon. James would want me to take care of his son. I expect you have some questions for me. I'll meet you at Hogwarts as soon as Harry is safe. Might want to ask Slughorn for some Veritaserum. I doubt you'll believe me without it.
Professor Dumbledore's bushy eyebrows rose in question. He doubted there was anything that Sirius Black could tell him that would keep the young man out of Azkaban. Dumbledore knew that he had been the secret keeper for Lily's Fidelius charm. Only he could have betrayed the Potter's to Voldemort tonight. And yet, Sirius knew all this and still believed that there was something he could say that would change Dumbledore's mind. Then there was the request for Veritaserum. Maybe it was possible that there was another explanation. He would have to ask Horace for some immediately.
It was barely an hour later that Dumbledore heard the knock on his door. He turned to Fawkes.
"He must not be allowed to leave without my permission."
The phoenix dipped his head as if nodding and disappeared in a ball of flame. Once the phoenix was away, Dumbledore pulled out his wand and trained it on the door.
"Come in, Sirius."
The black-haired young man pushed open the door. But instead of reacting to the wand trained on him or walking in his typical arrogant manner, he stood in the door, eyes red and wet. He looked up at Dumbledore, barely even acknowledging the fact that the most powerful wizard on the planet had his wand trained on him, then finally made his way in to the office and slumped in a chair, despair written on every feature of his face.
"I know what you think," his words were hoarse and barely audible, as if he had been screaming for so long he had no voice left. "But hear me out first. Then I won't even stop you."
As if in testament of this fact, he placed his wand on the Headmaster's desk before picking up the goblet of clear liquid sitting there.
"Yes. Luckily Horace always keeps a supply ready."
Sirius nodded and tipped the goblet back, draining the whole thing before once more slumping into his seat. Dumbledore waited a half a minute for the potion to take effect before he began.
"Did you betray Lily and James Potter?"
"Why? What could Voldemort possibly have offered you that would have made up for the loss of your best friend and his wife?"
"I didn't betray them to Voldemort."
"But you said…"
"I betrayed them to Peter. I convinced James that the best way to keep them safe was to change secret keepers at the last minute. No one but me would know that Peter really was the secret keeper, and Lily and James would be safe."
"You were not the secret keeper?"
"No. Peter Pettigrew is the bastard who gave them to Voldemort. And I told them to trust him."
Albus Dumbledore, the only wizard that Voldemort ever feared, was completely astonished. There was no way around the fact that Sirius Black had confessed under Veritaserum that it was not he who had betrayed the Potter's, but instead little Peter Pettigrew. Dumbledore would never have thought it possible that Peter was the spy. Quite honestly, he didn't think that Peter was capable of deceiving him for so long.
"How is it possible that Peter Pettigrew was able to mislead me for so long?"
"He's done it before. We all have."
"What do you mean?"
"We became illegal animagi our fifth year in order to keep Remus company on the full moons. You never found out."
"Peter Pettigrew is an illegal animagus?"
"What form does he take?"
"A rat. Seems oddly fitting now."
Albus stared at the tortured young man in front of him. It was clear that Sirius blamed himself for Peter's betrayal. It was also clear that he would do anything for Harry. There was no other reason why he would willingly be here. And he certainly would never have revealed such a secret before. Perhaps it was time to reconsider Harry's new home. Certainly he would receive much more care and love from Sirius than he could possibly receive from the Dursleys. They hated the very idea of magic.
"Very well, Sirius. I believe you." Sirius nodded, but the tortured look on his face did not subside. "There are some things we need to discuss. First of all, you need to stop blaming yourself for the death of Lily and James. It is not your fault."
"Yes it is."
"No, Sirius. It is Voldemort that killed them and Peter who betrayed them. You were a good friend. You willingly put your own safety above theirs by even pretending to be their secret keeper. You are no more to blame than I am." Sirius did not appear to believe him, but Albus let it go for now. "Secondly, I imagine that you wish to go after Peter."
"Of course. The rat is going to pay."
"Yes, he will. But I would advise you to leave his capture to me. With this information you have told me it should be easier to find him. And he will not be expecting me to recognize him in his animagus form. He will not be on his guard."
"I want to kill the bastard."
"Yes, I imagine you do. But think of Harry. He just lost his parents. If you kill Peter, Harry will lose his godfather as well. You will not do him much good in a cell in Azkaban." Sirius stared at the floor for several long minutes before nodding once.
"Fine. But you better find him. And soon. He must pay."
"I agree. Lastly, I imagine that you would like to take Harry."
"Yes. It is the only thing left I can do for Prongs and Lily."
"I thought as much. But before I can let you take Harry we must ensure that you will both be well protected. There are those out there who will be coming for the two of you."
"I know. I can't even afford a place to live."
"I believe that we can resolve this issue. With you being Harry's legal guardian I can release the Potter vault to your control. It may take several days for us to get a location secure, so we should probably leave Harry where he is until then. He is safe there."
"As long as we hurry. I will not leave him there any longer than I have to."
"Have you considered which protection spells you will use?"
"Yes." Sirius looked up at him, meeting his eyes for the first time since walking in to the office. "Be our secret keeper?"
"I will indeed. I would be honored. Is there anyone you wish me to tell of your location?"
"Remus. He deserves to know. And he deserves an apology. We should never have suspected him."
"Very well. Why don't you get some rest. I will make all the necessary arrangements in the morning."
"I don't need to rest. I'm going to watch after Harry."
Albus nodded at him. He had suspected as much. Opening the drawer to his left he withdrew a square of shimming fabric. "Then take this, I'm sure James would want it used to protect his son."
Sirius took it gratefully. "Will you tell me why you had it in the first place?"
"I wanted to examine it," Albus answered, with a slight frown on his face. "I will tell you the story someday." He seemed to think for a minute. "And soon you and I will have to have a discussion. If you are going to raise Harry you will need to know everything about the prophecy. I think it best to keep it from Harry for several years."
"I'm not even going to tell him who he is until he is older and ready. He deserves a normal childhood. At least as normal as I can give him."
"I couldn't agree more."
Sirius thanked Dumbledore once more, than threw the cloak over his shoulders and disappeared from view. He had a house to watch.
A/N: The characters, and some of the dialogue, in this story are not my own. I just wanted a chance to play with the idea of what would have happened if one crucial decision had been made differently—if Sirius went to Dumbledore before he went after Wormtail. All the best parts of this story belong to JK Rowling.