Epilogue: Promises Unbroken

Three Days Before the End: January 13, 1992

Later, Sirius would acknowledge that the words that been said outside his cell should have filled him with incandescent fury. He should have felt more than just determination, should have burned for revenge more than he'd ever wanted anything else before. And yet, instead those words lit a fire in what remained of his soul, galvanizing him into action and granting Sirius energy that he hadn't possessed in years. One moment, he'd just been lying there, listening idly periodic screams and to voices as they went by, half-reeling from the last bout of experimentation that he couldn't really remember. But then a familiar voice cut straight through the haze.

"It…never seemed important…Lucius," Wormtail stuttered. A half second passed before Sirius could remember his friend's name, a half second while his every instinct cried out to shout for help, to sing out that someone he knew was there. Could this be—?

Peter, his memory finally supplied the name. Peter Pettigrew, and he sounds terrified. Sirius knew that had that effect on everyone, and why was Peter here?

"Really?" The response was a sneer, and he knew that voice, too, even if he didn't hear Lucius Malfoy speak so often as he did other relations of his own.

"Well, um—"

"Crucio!" There was a thump that had to be Peter hitting a wall, and the screaming lasted for thirty seconds or so. Something in Sirius' stomach flipped the way it didn't when listening to other people howl in pain, but Peter had been his friend, his brother, and Sirius had fought so long for those friends that he'd almost forgotten what they looked and sounded like. Malfoy continued in a snarl: "That is but a taste of what our master will give you, fool. Get up!"

Our Master. Sirius wasn't so lost that he didn't catch the meaning of those words, and the sliver of hope he'd started feeling vanished. Of course. The world must have changed while he was rotting in hell. How many more people he knew were now Death Eaters? He must have been lucky he'd never encountered any of them before…

But Peter? Why Peter? Sirius hadn't known that there was anything left that could make him feel so empty.

Outside the cell, Peter nosily scrambled to his feet, and Sirius found that his vision had cleared enough that he could stare at the metal bars of his cell. One of his best friends was on the other side of that door, practically within reach.

He might has well have been on the moon.

Moony. There was another friend he'd not thought of in forever, and Sirius struggled to remember what Remus looked like. He was so deep in thought that he almost missed Malfoy's next demand.

"Have you found out anything useful for a change?"

"Not…not really—"

"Not really?" Now Lucius was getting mocking, the way he always did when those he considered his inferiors failed him. "What is the use of having Potter's best friend as a spy if you learn nothing?"

Potter. That meant James was alive, and Sirius' grief drowned under a wave of joy. He'd always known that Voldemort would tell him if his best friend died, but as the years crawled by and he saw the Dark Lord personally less and less often, he started to wonder if he'd just been left to rot because James and Lily and Harry were gone, and Voldemort didn't need Sirius any more save as a lab rat for his more depraved Death Eaters to attempt experiments on. But this meant—!

"Well, it's not like James really brings his work home—Lucius don't!" The desperation in Peter's voice made Sirius listen again, made him clamp down on the overwhelming urge to laugh out loud in joy. "I'm telling you the truth, and no amount of threatening will change that! I don't know anything!"

Except Peter was lying. He knew plenty. Sirius knew that as well as he knew his own name—better maybe, because there were times this place made him doubt who he was. Little Peter had always been a surprisingly adept liar, but Sirius had been around him back when they'd all been carefree children, and he knew everything there was to know about Peter Pettigrew.

He didn't pay attention as Lucius stalked away and Peter stumbled after him. Sirius hardly noticed the Dementors that drifted by a few minutes later, either. He only opened his eyes further, wiggled his fingers and toes, and started thinking for the first time in forever.

Yes, I think Padfoot would be just thin enough…

The Final Day: January 17, 1992

Voldemort visited that morning, of course, leaving Sirius' mind doing half-conscious cartwheels, and making him feel like his soul had been sprinkled with a liberal coating of heavy and oppressive muck. He couldn't remember much of the encounter afterwards, either, which was probably a bad sign in and of itself. The gaps in his memory were growing more worrisome the more he thought about them; previously Sirius had just been grateful to deny the Dementors more nightmare fodder, but there was so much he didn't know…and he wasn't even sure who his soul belonged to these days.

Fear of having unwittingly become the Dark Lord's creature was almost enough to keep him in that cell, even when night fell and the prison grew quiet. Worry about that later, Sirius told himself firmly. Get out of here now. He had a chance, just one, and he had to take it.

Slowly, he cleared his mind, wiping away the worries over his memories or what spells might be lurking on him and remembering what it had been like to be a carefree boy who had found transforming himself easier than any Transfiguration assignment Professor McGonagall had ever handed out. He remembered the feeling of four paws replacing his hands and feet, of a sharp sense of smell that could always find his friends, of ears and a tail and so many places to run—

A startled yelp almost made it past canine lips as his memories became reality, and a black dog now filled the spot where once a battered and bloodied Sirius Black had lain. I did it! I really did it.

Padfoot almost couldn't believe he'd managed, but he shoved the dog instincts aside (it was odd how many of them he had when in his animagus form) and refused to lick his wounds. Instead, he clambered to his feet, clumsy from the broken leg and having not been a dog in longer than he could remember. In the early days, he'd transformed to ease the pain and the stress from the Dementors, but he'd broken the habit on purpose when Sirius realized he was doing so without meaning to, and had been terrified that the Death Eaters might catch him at it someday, thus depriving him of his only way to escape.

He had waited ten years, but the secrecy had paid off.

Standing was easier as a dog than a human; there were three limbs to take the weight off of the bad one instead of just one, and although moving hurt like the devil, Sirius figured he had been through worse. He couldn't smell any Dementors nearby, either, which meant it was time.

Limping forward, Padfoot squeezed his way between the bars, brushing bruised ribs against hard metal and biting back a whimper. But then he was free, and—

Twelve days later, a black dog stumbled in to Hogwarts' courtyard, and one choice changed everything.

True friendships never really die
And family isn't defined by blood
It's made strong by bonds that won't break
Tempered and tested by trials and pain
What we are is brothers, and as such we remain
Loyal to one another until the end
And no matter what happens between this moment and then
I shall be always thankful to have had such friends.

Sirius Black's story—and that of the other Marauders, Lily Potter, Albus Dumbledore, and many more—is continued in Promises Unbroken, Promises Remembered, and Promises Defended.

Ye Olde Other Author's Note: And that's it. Wow. It's been a long journey, and thank you all to those who have made it with me! Writing the Unbroken Universe has been an amazingly fun experience for me as a writer, and I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have. As always, please drop me a line to let me know what you think, and if you haven't already read the rest of the UU, this story is continued in "Promises Unbroken".