Last time . . .

"You want to know?"

Sirius nodded his head.

"Fine. It just so happens that Hadwyn is teaching a class right now. You remember where Lily's sister lived, don't you?"

Hesitantly, Sirius gave a nod.

"You're in luck. They happen to be home right now. Why don't you take a bloody stroll over there and ask them about Harry. Go find out what a fucking great time my son had growing up. Go on."

"What's the catch?" Sirius asked, his own voice sounding loud after the quietly spoken words of James' challenge.

"The catch?" James' lips twisted into a cold sneer. "The catch is that you either figure out the truth or I'm going to find a way to bludgeon you to death. Get me?"

Sirius flinched backward from his old friend's frightening expression. He wasn't sure if ghosts could kill and he didn't really want to find out.


"I'll go," Sirius nodded, feeling sweat beginning to gather in his armpits and at the small of his back.

"Then GO!" James suddenly howled, pushing him backward through space with a rough shove that left Sirius breathless and bruised.

Thunder clapped around him and then Sirius landed face down in someone's immaculately cared for rose bushes. A moment later, his shoes dropped atop his head with a dull thunk.

"Fuck," Sirius growled.

Chapter 30 - Maybe Even Love

A/N – Warning for slight gore ahead . . . slight. But then again, this is a reminder of why not to cross Sirius Black . . . Likewise, time is slipping around through this chapter. Sometimes it's exactly where I left off; sometimes a week has gone by. I think I've made it fairly clear though (I hope).

Harry stared out the window glumly. It had been raining for three days straight since their strange meeting with Elena and Big Blue, and he was sick of it. He missed the sun and the sky, and—and he was homesick for Hogwarts. The rain wasn't as cold as the rain was in Scotland, but it was still as dreary and dark as it had ever been. He missed Ron and Hermione; especially now that he knew she didn't hate him anymore.

He sighed and then nearly jumped out of his skin when Severus spoke from just behind him.

"What are you thinking about?"

"Geez! Don't do that!" Harry complained after having whirled around, wand already in hand at the sound of the voice.

"I apologize for interrupting your gloom," Severus answered with a slight smirk.

Harry scowled and turned back to the window. He wasn't in the mood to deal with snark—even his Papa's. The thought interrupted his dark thoughts and he smiled to himself. Papa. It sent a warm chill up his spine and he hugged his arms around his centre.

"It's just so wet outside," he murmured. Little rivers were starting to be formed as they made their way to the lake that was just out of sight.

"That bothers you?"

Harry turned back toward his guardian and hugged himself. He needed to ask Severus a question that he had been wondering about for more than a week.

"Do you s'pose . . ." He broke off and bit his lip.

"Child?" Severus knelt in front of him and put a long fingered hand on his shoulder.

Harry took a fortifying breath. "When we get back to Hogwarts . . ." he licked his lips nervously, "Will you still be able to—will I still be able to—?"

"What?" Dark brown eyes waited patiently for him to speak.

"Claim me?" He squeaked.

"In what form?" Severus asked softly.

"Are you gonna go back to . . . you know, hating me?"

The hand on his shoulder moved to one of his clenched fists.

"I never truly hated you, Harry," Severus said softly.

"But—," Harry started to protest.

"Shush. As to your question, the answer is no. I will have to treat you as I treat any student—at least while we are in class," Severus hastily added when Harry looked to interrupt again. "But outside of class," the corner of his mouth twitched upward. "I would very much like to acknowledge you as my son, provided it wouldn't cause you too much undue embarrassment."

The smile Harry bestowed on him was beatific.

. . .

Sirius was angry, and he was certain that it showed on his countenance when Petunia Dursley opened the door. She took one look at his face and squeaked before trying to slam the door. He caught it on his arm and shoved the rest of the way inside.

He was angry that James had chosen bloody awful SNIVELLOUS over him—over him! He was angry that no one was answering his questions about Harry, and he was angry that Dumbledore didn't seem to give a rat's arse about how Hadwyn was treating him.

"You—You can't just barge in here and—!" Petunia spluttered as he whipped out his wand and pointed it at her.

"Shut. UP," He growled, his eyes methodically going over all of the pictures in the room. There weren't any of Harry. Why weren't there any of Harry?

"Where's Harry's stuff?!" He barked, shoving his wand in the face of a trembling Petunia.

"He—He has it all with him! He never forgets anything here!"

"He has nothing here!?" He snarled. He had always left things at home; at least until he had moved out, and even then, there were remnants.

"Nothing," she spat back at him. "We don't want any reminders of that—that menace of a boy. He knows what would happen if he were to leave anything behind." Petunia's face was an expression of disdain, even open contempt.

Her expression reminded him of his mother's, only it was clear that Petunia had never cared for Harry. At least his mother had some concern for him when he had been a child, when he had been too young to know better.

And Dumbledore left him here?

"Now you—you c-can get out of here freak! Before I call the p-police!" Petunia stammered at him; the light in her eyes as crazy as his mother's had ever been.

"You don't want to cross me, you half-crazed bint," he growled back.

"We never wanted him, you hear me!? We never wanted one of your wretched kind darkening our perfectly normal household. If we could have beaten the magic out of him, we would have! He's been nothing but trouble for us his whole entire, miserable life!" Petunia screamed, her voice rising in shrillness with each vile statement.

"Marge was right. We should have drowned him as a pup instead of allowing him poison us slowly from the inside out! He should have died with my bitch of a sister!" Petunia was panting at the end of her rant; her face pale with two spots of dark red in her cheeks.

Not even thinking, Sirius snapped out the first spell he could think of at her.

"Harry needed you and you ignored that need," Hadwyn's words echoed in his brain as he turned on his heel to explore the rest of the house.

Behind him, Petunia continued to scream wordlessly, her severed tongue a bloody mess on the floor and more dribbling down her front with every breath. He found the stairs and then turned around and shot a cauterizing spell at her too.

"I might have been locked away for being a murderer, but that doesn't mean I am one," He growled at her, an off colour light shining in his eyes.

She wailed weakly in response and then without further ado, her eyes rolled back in her head and she collapsed to the floor with a thump. Sirius' smile was all teeth as he made his way upstairs.

. . .

Part of the way through the summer and more than a week after receiving an answer from Harry, Hermione received an invitation via owl to spend the week with the Weasleys. She wondered at its validity, given how rotten they had been to one another after Harry had left with Snape, but in the end she decided (after conferring with her parents) to go and see how Ron and his family were doing.

Molly Weasley greeted her as warmly as ever as she stepped out from the floo. She wondered whether Ron had even told her about what had happened between them.

She passed Ginny on the way up the stairs and nodded to her. The other girl barely acknowledged her presence, despite the fact that they were usually on good terms with one another. Hermione frowned but continued up the stairs.

"Don't mind her," Ron's voice came out of nowhere and she nearly took a tumble back down the way she had come.

"Merlin!" She exclaimed, seeing him on the landing just above her. "Don't you ever do that again to me!"

Ron's smile was present, but only a shadow of its former self.

"She seems to think that Harry's leaving is our fault. And she's mad because no one will tell her any different." He shrugged and held a hand out to her. She took it after a split second of hesitation and allowed him to lead them into his room.

"Do your parents know?" Hermione asked softly, thinking of the warm way Molly had met her.

"A bit," Ron shrugged again. "Harry's been writing me, you know. Said he got your letter and sent you back an answer."

Hermione's eyes instantly filled as her emotions tried to take over her composure again. Hearing that Harry had forgiven her had been both the best and worst moment of her summer—of her life, even perhaps.

"Harry's a good friend," She managed a few minutes later, her voice thick.

"Better than we were," Ron admitted, throwing himself onto his bed and looking away from her.

"It wasn't just me?" She asked in a small voice.

This time, Ron's smile was bitter and it transformed his face into that of someone older. "It wasn't just you. We should have noticed something was wrong. We shoulda done something, like he woulda done something for us."

She tentatively sat down next to him. "Is he really okay with Professor Snape? Not just in comparison with the Dursleys, but really better?"

Ron let out a gusty sigh beside her. "I think, I think yeah. I think he is. Snape brewed him a potion to fix his eyes, you know that? And," Ron ducked his head with a grin reminiscent of the old Ron. "Snape listens to him. I think Harry loves him even."

Tears brimmed in her eyes again, but she smiled through them. "And does the professor love Harry, do you think?"

Ron reached out and grasped her hand, squeezing her fingers almost too tightly. "I think he'd have to by now. Harry doesn't just love people for just anything. I think Snape's showin' him what it's like to be loved."

. . .

The room with all of the broken things. The locks on the doors. The cat flap in the door. The bars on the window. It all made his blood boil. Without even a word, Sirius' magic blasted a man-sized hole in the flimsy plywood door. Shards of wood flew past his face, not a one daring to actually scratch him. And then he blasted the rest of the hallway in a similar fashion.

It wasn't Snivellous who took him from me. The thought ran rampant in his mind as he set fire to the beds.

It wasn't even Remus, he thought as the electronic doodads in the other room melted as he walked past.

Not even Hadwyn, damn the man. All of the toilets in the house suddenly exploded spraying backed up water and sewage and god knows what everywhere.

On a whim, he transformed as he went down the stairs, spraying the bannister yellow as he went. Following his nose, he went after the scent that he had found in what had been his boy's room. It let him to a cupboard under the stairs which magically burst open as he came up on it.

A bare mattress met him and he climbed onto it, still in his Padfoot form. A child sized handprint had been traced on the wall just beside the doorway. He nosed it and whined. Above him, he heard crashes as more things collapsed in the burgeoning fire. The smoke was beginning to thicken as he hopped off the bed and trotted back into the kitchen where Petunia Dursley lay moaning incoherently in a puddle of her own blood.

He transformed back into his human form and knelt beside her, avoiding the blood.

"I should leave you here to burn, you know that?" His lips curled back in a snarl as he spoke to the barely coherent woman. "That's what you'd do to Harry, isn't it?"

With a roar, he grabbed the front of her blouse and threw her against the windows hard enough to make them rattle.

"Isn't it?" He whispered.

. . .

The police arrived at #4 Privet Drive just in time to watch the roof cave in. The fire was peculiar in that it never strayed from the foundation of the home, not even burning the grass in front where they found the sole survivor on.