1 A Simple Act

I own nothing. Sirius, Harry, Doubledore…. All not mine.

Also, one quick request. If there is anyone out there who is British, and who would like to help me make my stories a bit more "British", please e- mail me separately. Thanks a mill.

This is it, I thought. This is it. After all that, after everything, after it finally seemed that I was going to be cleared and people would know the truth, this had to happen. In only a few moments, they're going to hand me over to those soul-sucking fiends and I'll be gone. Forever. Just like that. No more Sirius Black.

I swore. Goddamn that full moon! Goddamn Snape!. Goddamn Peter! Goddamn myself! I slammed my fist on the table, and let my head fall into my hands.

"Is there a problem, Sirius?" I sat up at the sound of that achingly familiar voice. Professor Albus Dumbledore stood in front of me, arms crossed, the twinkle that so often frequented those sparkling blue eyes, gone.

"Professor, please. You, of all people, have to listen." I begged him. The look he gave me was no different than in that courtroom all those years ago, when they dragged me out, never hearing me as I screamed my innocence.

"Severus has informed me of the situation and," he stopped when I snorted.

"Snape wasn't even there for most of it and he never even saw Peter. How could he 'inform you of the situation'?"

He stared at and then I realized, " Oh my God, you think," I started breathing harder," You think, that I, I was after Harry, don't you? You think I was trying to kill him, him and his friends tonight, don't you?"

But Dumbledore was looking at me strangely.

"What do you mean he never even saw Peter? He claims the only ones at the Shack were you, Remus, him, Harry, Ron, and Hermione."

"He forgot the cat, it's the girl's I believe, and Peter." Dumbledore frowned.

"Sirius, Peter Pettigrew is dead." For the first time in almost twelve years, I dared look my old headmaster in the eye.

"No sir. He is not." Dumbledore looked at me, as if pushing me silently to elaborate.

"I do believe he was the last time I checked." I shook my head venomously. I heard a far off howl, loud even though the magically latched window. And I decided something. I'd had enough. I was sick and tired of being accused of something I had not done by my old friends and family, even as they whispered that I was the last one it would have thought to turn, and they never expected it, I longed to scream at them that they were right. Well, tonight, at least Harry and Remus knew. That was what counted. And now I was about to add to my list.

"He is alive! He's been here, under your nose all this time!" I spat. Dumbledore looked a bit shocked.

"What do you mean?"

"The boy's rat." I growled. Dumbledore inclined his head.

"The red-head," I thought franticly for a name, but couldn't come up with one. "He had a pet rat. That pet rat was Peter." Dumbledore looked even less convinced than before so I decided to elaborate and prayed Remus would forgive me.

"Peter Pettigrew is not a rat." Dumbledore spoke patiently, as if he were speaking to me when I was six years old and he was scolding me for playing ball in the house again, as he had that day so long ago, in another life, another world. In any other situation, I would have relished him treating me like a human being again after so many years of pain and isolation. But not tonight. Tonight I was going to loose my soul, that I knew. But I wanted him to know the truth first.

"And I am not a child." I took a deep breath. "You are right about one thing. Peter is not a rat, not by birth anyway." Then I began my tale.

"Professor, Peter is an animagus." I glanced out the window, half expecting to see that large white stag or the slivery gray wolf and the black bear like dog hurrying across the grounds as I had so many times before this year.

"An animagus?" Dumbledore was speaking slowly, as if trying desperately to comprehend just what that meant. I nodded. I closed my eyes. A memory, unbidden, arose in my mind. Four boys, seated around a steaming cauldron, all-staring warily into the swirling green mist rising from the clear liquid in the pot. Three pick up the goblets and dip them into the potion. They give the fourth boy a mock toast and drink. Then I realized Dumbledore's hand was on my shoulder.

"Tell me, Sirius." Slowly, so very slowly, I nodded.

"When we found out about Remus, we wanted to find someway to be with him. To make it easier for him. It was a few months after we found out that we studied animagi. And when McGonagall,"

"Professor McGonagall." He corrected patiently. I smiled.

" When Professor McGonagall changed into a cat, I had an idea." I sighed, remembering asking for that large book we'd almost ripped, dyed, tore, and stained so many times in the three years we borrowed it. McGonagall had never discovered just what we used it for, but that was to our advantage. I continued.

"I proposed it and James agreed instantly. Peter was a bit hesitant, but he soon got caught up in it. Remus was the one who tried to tell us it was too dangerous, but like usual, we didn't listen. It took us the better part of three years to figure out, but in the end, we did it." I chanced a look at Dumbledore. He was looking on with all the interest of the five year old who's being told a brand new bedtime story. He nodded for me to continue.

"That night we took the potion, James, Peter, and me. And it worked. After that night we could all turn into animals at will." Dumbledore's eyes widened just a bit, a hint of the surprise I'm sure the news had. He's known us all well, very well, both during and after school, and never once had we mentioned this to him. I'd wondered if James had ever told him, but I guessed not.

"And Peter could turn into a rat." I nodded.

"We needed a small animal, one that could be able to slip under the tree and press the knot so we could get down the tunnel." I explained. He nodded.

"And you and James? What were you?"

"James was a stag." I told him, " And I was a dog."

"A dog?" he looked not in the least bit surprised. " And did you choose to pick your own animals or did you let the potion pick for you?" he asked. I remembered having to make that decision.

"We let the potion decide. Should have been a sign, it should. Should have seen Peter was a filthy little rat, even then." I growled. Angry and hate flooded my heart once again. The joy I'd felt early that night was gone, replaced with an ache that had never truly gone away till I saw Harry smile at me when he thought he was coming to live with me, and I saw James shining out of his eyes.

With that came was a slowly rising panic. The kind you get when you are a child, and the doctor tells you, you're just getting a shot and you're terrified of needles, but you know there's nothing you can do, short of running out of the room, screaming in terror, and then the nurse takes forever to come into the room and your fear is slowly mounting. I was raised a muggle and so I knew that one well.

"A sign for what?" Dumbledore asked. I noticed he'd been treating me so very politely since I'd begun to talk, like he was truly interested in what I had to say. It was an alien feeling to me, knowing someone cared. But I swallowed hard. I'd almost cried when Remus told Harry everything. I'd almost sobbed when I explained what really happened. And I could have leapt for joy when Harry nodded. That one simple nod washed away mountains of grief, and years of guilt, just knowing Harry believed me made it almost all worth it. And I had to retell the story again. I wondered if Dumbledore would believe. I silently begged him to.

"When, when James named me the secret keeper, I was determined to keep my silence. But as the days went on, my doubt about my abilities grew. After three days, I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't take it if Voldemort did come after me and I did tell him. So I pressured James to change secret keepers." Dumbledore now looked openly shocked.

"Why wasn't I informed?" he asked.

"We thought it would be best if no one knew. Not even you. Plus, couldn't risk the owl being intercepted. We thought we had the perfect bluff. Voldemort would come after me, thinking I was the secret keeper. But I wasn't, I didn't know where the Potters were and so I couldn't betray them. Voldemort would come after me while the real secret keeper would be safe. While Peter would be safe."

Dumbledore's face was alive. His eyes were sparkling again. "Peter was the secret keeper?" I nodded. "He was the spy?" I nodded again.

" I was a fool. I didn't see, didn't want to. Then when he betrayed us," my voice hitched in a sob and I swallowed harder, trying to get rid of the large lump in my throat. "When he betrayed us, I couldn't stand it. I was convinced I'd done it. That by convincing James and Lily to switch, I'd killed them. And then you wouldn't let me keep Harry, so I did the one thing I could do."

"You went after Peter." Dumbledore said, quietly. I nodded.

"When I found him, he yelled for the whole street to hear that I'd betrayed Lily and James. Then he blew it up with the wand behind his back. While the smoke was still hanging in the air, he transformed, running down into the sewer with the other rats."

"And his finger, cut it off himself, did he?" Again, I nodded.

"Just before he transformed." He sat back, watching me. I had to wonder what he was thinking. Was he remembering the trial? Or the sentencing, really. When I rushed at Remus, begging, pleading with him to listen to me, to know that I hadn't killed the Potters. Did he believe me now?

"Well, this certainly changes things, doesn't it?" Dumbledore muttered. I chanced a look at him. He was smiling slightly. It was that same look he'd had so many times on his face in the years I knew him. And I knew he believed me. the feeling that filled me was the very same that I had felt when Harry gave that single determined nod that sent Peter into hysterics.

"They will be back with the Demenetors very soon." I nodded. "That gives us very little time to act." My head shot up and I was staring at him.

"To act, sir?" but he didn't acknowledge me.

"Good luck, Sirius. I will do my best to persuade the ministry." I nodded and took the offered hand. He shook my hand, and then let it drop. He smiled, a slow comforting smile, and then he was gone.

I settled back in my chair. At least he knew. That was a bit of a comfort.

But I was going to die. No, worse than die. Because I wasn't going to heaven. I wondered just what happened to your soul after it was sucked out of you. I knew it was lost, but where? Would I be able to watch Remus, and Harry? Would I be able to see Lily and James? Would I be able to help them in any way? Or was I condemned to a world too much like Azkaban? And would the world, my world, ever know the truth and realize they'd destroyed an innocent man?

Suddenly a tapping interrupted me from my thoughts. I opened my eyes and looked up. What I saw was a shock, indeed. Harry was floating outside my window. The girl, Hermione, I thought, was seated behind him, seated on a giant creature, razor talons, birdlike head, but like a horse. I franticly picked through my faded education. Come on Black, I thought as I hurried to the window, COMC was your best class. You can do it. Don't tell me you've lost everything you learned. Hippogriff! That was it. What were Harry and Hermione doing on a hippogriff? I reached the window, but it was locked. I knew that, but it was worth a try.

"Stand back!" Hermione called as she bent over and tapped the window. It swung open.

"How-how-?" I began to ask, but Harry shook his head.

"Get on." He whispered. "There's not much time." I stared at the huge beast. I remembered working with them in class. Great fearsome things, they were.

"You've got to get out of here." Harry said, his eyes hurried and his voice frantic," The Dementors are going. Macnair's gone to get them." I swallowed my fear, climbed onto the window frame, and trying my best not to look down, climbed onto the creatures back behind Hermione. I let out a long breath of relief. It was a good thing I'd been so thin. I'd never have been able to get out of that window had I been in my former shape.

"OK, Buckbeak, up!" he called, " Up to the tower- come on!" I grabbed onto Hermione as the hippogriff flapped its wings and flew off up to the tower. I had to, otherwise I would have fallen. We reached the tower in a matter of seconds and Harry and Hermione slipped off almost at once.

"Sirius, you'd better go, quickly." Harry said, his hand on the creature, Buckbeak's neck. "They'll reach Flitwick's office any moment, they'll find out you've gone." but I wasn't so ready to leave just yet.

"What happened to the other boy?" what was his name? Then I had it," Ron?" I didn't want him to suffer, he'd broken his leg, and he had lost his pet tonight.

"He's going to be OK, he's still out of it. But Madam Pomfrey says she'll be able to make him better. Quick-go!" he was so much like James, telling me without words I was being foolish, staying too long.

"How can I ever thank-"

"Go!" Harry and Hermione both shouted. I took the hint. It was time to go, but I had to tell Harry, had to promise him.

"We'll see each other again." I told Harry, my voice low. But I knew he heard me. " You are truly your father's son." For one instant, I allowed myself to pretend that the swirling mist behind Harry and Hermione had formed into shapes. That Lily and James were behind them, smiling and telling me with voices not unlike the wind to go. Harry's face was so much like James's, it hurt to tear my eyes away. But I did.

I turned Buckbeak to the sky, and squeezing his sides, we rose up into the air and away from Hogwarts.

I didn't look back as we flew past the moon. I knew if I did, I'd never leave. I let my joy overwhelm me as we flew through the air. I was free. I was not going to loose my soul. I was going to keep it, forever and ever. It was mine. And I was free. I closed my eyes. and shouted those three words to whoever heard me.

"I am free!" I shouted to the moon and stars and sky. Buckbeak seemed to feel my joy and gave a small dip. I grabbed on, holding tight and laughed as he pulled out of his dive.

But I didn't mind. in fact, I've never taken so much joy from such a simple act. I'd never felt so, well, free. I was going to live another day, to fight another battle. Something told me that the battle coming would be far worse than anything we'd ever faced before. And Harry was going to be involved. And so was I.

But for now, I was free. Free to live, free to think, free to dream, free to keep a promise made in a broken home to a dying friend.

The sun was just rising as we reached the coast. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I could hear James's voice on the wind if I listened just right. And he was singing.