Disclaimer: JK Rowling be so awesome.
Chapter One: Freedom
Sirius groaned holding his head tightly in his dirty hands. He sat in the corner of his cell on the cold stone floor, a place he preferred since it was furthest away from the door and the Dementors. He also preferred to keep his face hidden in his hands, as it prevented him from having to feel like the four tall stone walls of the cell were closing in on him all of the time, especially in the dim-darkness. The only light coming into the cell was that shining in from the hallway by the crack beneath the door and it only allowed Sirius to make out the shapes of the items in his cell. A toilet in the opposite corner that loved to run over and a ragged pad of a mattress that sat flat on the floor opposite the toilet. The mattress held a holey cotton blanket so dirty dust flew off of it whenever Sirius pulled it over himself and nothing else. No pillow, no sheets.
Sirius spent a lot of time thinking in his cell, having nothing else to do except eat when the food trays came around. He knew other prisoners were in group cells, and they at least, had one another for company. But Sirius was considered a high security prisoner, and therefore, got to spend the rest of his life sitting here in this corner, alone. But he did try to keep himself amused with the happy memories he was allowed to contain… the ones the Dementors couldn't ever swipe away from him.
Sirius would imagine the faces of those he loved the most. Of his dear long lost friends, James and Lily Potter, and of their son, Harry. Especially of Harry, who he knew was alive and presumably well. At least he could always have that little shining ray of hope… that that precious baby boy, who he had watched birthed and whom he had helped raise until the Potters had been required to go into hiding, was still breathing… His little heart was still beating in his chest, despite the attempt to destroy him.
But now, Sirius didn't even know how old Harry would be, he had lost track of the years. At first, Sirius had kept up with the date by writing tally marks in the dust upon the back of the door, but then, after five hundred and seventy three tallies, they had moved him into this cell instead. It was smaller than the other cell, which they had needed to house more than one occupant with the great incoming of caught and guiltily tried Death Eaters after the fall of Voldemort.
Sirius was just pondering over whether Harry still had the toy broomstick he had gotten him for his first birthday when a knocking came upon the door. He glanced upwards, was it dinner time already? They hadn't even bothered to collect his tray from lunch yet… it couldn't be time for dinner. But then, perhaps they were moving him to yet another cell? Or… or… He could barely think it… Or they had decided to administer him the Dementor's Kiss. He gulped, but didn't want to play the part of a coward. He was a former Gryffindor after all. He pushed himself to his feet, standing as tall and as proud as he could manage on his weakened legs. Being stuck inside a cell for years took a toll on one's muscles, he'd found out. He'd always been fairly thin to begin with, but now, he was just skin and bones covered in his prison uniform.
The door swung open and Sirius had to cover his face with his arm to shield his eyes from the light that practically blinded him. It definitely couldn't be a meal time. They never had to open a door for that, just slip the tray through a slot in the door that was sealed shut unless they were giving or retrieving a tray from a prisoner. What did they want then? Surely… They couldn't possibly be giving him the Dementor's Kiss, could they? Not after all this time in the cell…
"Sirius." That voice… it was so familiar and it made Sirius force his eyes to adjust to the light spilling into the cell, illuminated the silhouette of tall, thin figure, his robes sweeping the floor as he strode into the cell towards Sirius. An old bearded face came into view, half moon spectacles glinting in the light.
"Dumbledore?" Sirius asked, his voice strained from disuse and dust. He could not, as much as he tried, keep the shock out of his tone, nor the hopefulness. Nobody had ever visited him in Azkaban before… so there had to be a reason Dumbledore was here. Was he going to oversee the losing of Sirius's soul? "What're you doing here?"
"I have come to retrieve you, Sirius." Dumbledore said kindly, reaching a hand out to shake Sirius's own dirty palm. "You are, as of today, a free man."
"But… how?" Sirius asked, complete confusion exploding in his mind. This had to be a dream, that was it. He'd finally fallen asleep in the corner, or he'd officially gone raving mad at last. There was no way he was ever going to be free of Azkaban. He would spend the rest of his days here, withering away until there was nothing left to him but something even the Dementors would have trouble sucking a soul out of.
"As you will certainly remember, you were placed in here without a trial on the account that you killed Peter Pettigrew and a dozen Muggles in a crowded street full of witnesses as well as gave James and Lily Potter's location to Voldemort."
"I never….!" But Dumbledore held up his hand, silencing Sirius so that he could continue, needing to speak before Sirius could be allowed to do so.
"Last night, Peter Pettigrew was captured, just outside of a little village called Ottery St. Catchpole. He has been living as a rat, in animagus form, as a family pet to one of the Weasley's young boys. Apparently, Peter could not bear another night as a rat and went out into the garden to spend some time as a human. The youngest child saw him out her window and her scream alerted her parents and older brothers who helped capture him. Arthur and Molly recognized him from school and took him straight to the Ministry. He's been taken into custody and admitted to everything under Veritaserum."
"How… how can…" Sirius gaped at Dumbledore, not believing his ears. Could this be true? Could he really… could the world really know now, that he was truly innocent?
"I know it seems impossible. But, Sirius Black, you are officially allowed to step out of these doors and see the light once more. The Ministry was going to publically apologize to you, but I thought you might like some time to recover before they do so." Dumbledore smiled, stepping aside and gesturing to the door, offering Sirius to go first… to leave his cell… to leave Azkaban for the first time in…
"What year is it?" Sirius cautiously stepped foot out of his cell, but the wizard guards did not attempt to subdue him or push him back inside. Instead, they looked somber at the fact that they had helped keep an innocent man locked away.
"Today is the thirtieth of July, nineteen eighty four." Dumbledore provided as he motioned for Sirius to follow him up the hallway, ignoring the jeers and sneers from the other high security inmates who had heard the entire conversation through the cracks under their doors. "You've been in here about three and a half years."
"Oooh ickle Sirius, dear cooooousin." Sirius tried to ignore the crooning of is cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange as her long fingers poked out from beneath the door beside the cell that was no longer his. "Dear dear cousin, take your poor beloved Bella away with you."
"Not a chance, bitch." Sirius stomped on Bella's fingers, causing her to yelp before she laughed quite insanely. He ignored her and traipsed after Dumbledore, up eight sets of stairs until they reached the very top floor of the prison and Sirius caught his first glimpses of sky out of the little windows.
"Padfoot." Sirius was jolted slightly at the familiar voice coming from close to the doors that led out of this horrible place. He turned his attention from the glorious windows to find a shabby looking man staring at him, a wide, but slightly guilty smile upon his friendly face. He took a cautious step forward, but Sirius almost broke into a run. He let out a strangled laugh he had been holding in for years and threw his arms around his best mate, hugging onto him tightly, gripping the back of his robes.
"Moony." Remus nearly stumbled backwards, but hugged Sirius back just as tightly, his eyes closed against the tears of joy and relief that were threatening to fall.
"Sirius, I am so sorry." Remus said as they let go of one another at last. "I should have known better than to think you'd have ever…"
"Forget it." Sirius shook his head, hugging Remus again, his butt wiggling like a dog's did when its tail was wagging the fastest. "If we had been in the opposite positions, I would have thought the same of you. I'm just glad to see you, though, you looked like you've had a rough few moons." Sirius frowned, pulling away from his best mate and looking him up and down.
"It's not as easy to cope with by myself, that's all." Remus gave him a small reassuring smile. "You, however, look awful. What do they feed you here? A diet of lettuce?"
"This place is hell, Moony." Sirius shook his head as they headed for the door, Remus keeping a close eye on him as though afraid he might keel over at any moment."I'm just… incredibly shocked to be getting out, actually. I never thought…" But Sirius was unable to finish his sentence as Dumbledore held the door for the both of them, and Sirius finally got his first glimsp of the outside world.
They were on a rocky island surrounded by choppy, cold looking gray ocean. The sky above them was pure white, a layer of clouds after the rainstorm they had had last night, but that Sirius had been oblivious to. He hadn't heard rain in over three years. It was quite a dismal looking place, but Sirius knew, he just knew, that beyond all of that water… there lay color and the promise of good things to come.
"Dumbledore?" Sirius asked after a minute as they walked towards the special Apparation zone of the island. One could only apparate or disapparated in a specifically marked bunch of rocks, making it more difficult for the prisoners, who did not know the outside of the island well, to escape.
"Yes?" Dumbledore turned to look at him as they reached the little alcove of rocks and entered them, completely surrounded on all sides by the tall gray boulders.
"When… when can I see Harry?" Sirius asked, feeling quite like a school boy again under Dumbledore's classic over the glasses gave. The older man gave a small, sad smile. "I mean… I am his legal guardian, and now that I'm out, it's my responsibility to take care of him."
"You may see Harry when the time comes, but I'm afraid it might not be any time soon. We would first, have to have the permission of his aunt and uncle, whom I'm afraid might not be so willing to allow us to visit, as they are Muggles."
"Muggles?" Sirius asked, perplexed for a moment before it dawned on him. He knew who Dumbledore was referring to. "You can't mean… not Lily's awful sister? But she abhors magic, Dumbledore! That's not…"
"It is the very safest place for him, Sirius." Dumbledore tried to explain, looking older by the second. He had obviously been hoping that these questions would not have come so soon. "There are circumstances in which…"
"Screw the circumstances, Dumbledore! My godson deserves better than a houseful of magic hating Muggles to raise him!" Sirius glared at Dumbledore, outrage all over his gaunt face. "He can't possibly be happy with them, they're probably… probably… trying to squish the magic out of him! Does he really like it there?"
"Mrs. Figg has reported that he is quite content, from my understanding." Dumbledore explained, though Sirius and Remus both seemed a bit apprehensive. They had both met Lily's sister, Petunia, on only one occasion and had not been impressed. She had come with her parents to drop Lily off at her fourth year of school, and Lily had run off in tears because her sister had been shouting all sorts of names at her. Words like 'freak' and 'abnormity'. She hadn't even bothered to come to Lily's wedding, though she had been sent an invitation.
"Who's Mrs. Figg?" Remus asked quickly, wanting to know more but Dumbledore waved him off.
"We need to be going now. We can discuss this further in… safer accommodations." Dumbledore glanced around, as though expecting to see someone entering the alcove of rocks, but there was not a single soul there. He was right though. Just because Voldemort was presumably finished, did not mean that the world around them was completely safe. When discussing things as precious and secret as the Boy-Who-Lived's living arrangements, it was best done in privacy.
"Right." Remus nodded and Sirius looked hesitant, but then nodded as well.
"Where are we going? I haven't a wand, so I can't very well apparate…" Sirius stated, this finally dawning on him. He'd been without his wand for so very long now, that it's mere memory was like a dream, even though he'd had it for a good ten years of his life.
"I have your wand right here, Sirius." Dumbledore dug into one of the pockets of his deep royal purple robes and withdrew a long round stick, polished and looking quite well cared for despite its lack of use. Sirius's eyes widened and he instantly took his wand from Dumbledore, a warmth spreading up his arm at the reuniting of wand and wizard. It was as though he'd been missing a piece of himself and had only just found it again. He gripped the handle tightly, a few sparks shooting out of the end, the wand rejoicing as well.
"Thank you… for not letting them destroy it." Dumbledore smiled back at him and then waved his hand.
"We are going to go to your old family home, Sirius. You both know where that is, but I am not going to speak the name in case anyone is indeed, listening. We must keep it a secret for the time being." The two younger men nodded in agreement. "Off we go then."
The three men twisted on the spot, all of them apparating as one, a loud crack echoing in the sky above them as they did so. They all appeared a moment later in a small square of shabby looking houses. Sirius gave a long sigh, breathing in the air. After Azkaban, even his childhood nightmare would be a welcome sight to him.
Dumbledore and the two younger men approached numbers 11 and 13 of Grimmauld Place and as they did so, number 12 seemed to slide itself out into appearance. Sirius grimaced, but then smiled, noting that none of his evil family would be here. They were all gone and he couldn't even bring himself to be sad about that, they'd been so rotten. The only thing bad about the house would be whatever remained as decorations and furniture. If he was going to be taking custody of Harry, then he would want to give the house a good scrubbing and possibly a makeover.
As they entered number twelve, Sirius grimaced. The place was covered in dust and just as gruesome as he remembered it to be. The old troll leg umbrella stand still stood beside the door and the wallpaper in the long hallway full of pictures frames that looked like they could use a good scrubbing. He groaned and the moth eaten curtains hanging in the hallway flew open.
"FOUL CHILD! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE, YOU LOATHSOME LITTLE…" Sirius jumped as his mother's voice erupted, filling the air with a shrill angry tone that grated on his nerves. He moved forward and grabbed hold of the curtains, glaring at the portrait. He tugged them closed as hard as he could.
"I forgot about that damn thing." He glared at the curtains. "Dumbledore, do we have to stay here? Moony, why don't we go to your place?"
Remus shook his head, frowning a bit. "My landlord is going through one of her manic fits. It's won't be safe to hang around there until later tonight, after she's worn herself out."
"Your landlord has manic fits?' Sirius asked curiously as he and the others headed down into the basement kitchen to talk some more in private. Presumably about Harry.
"She's half banshee and I've got a really old neighbor bound to kick the bucket sometime soon. It gives her time to find new tenants though." Remus shrugged and gave Sirius a small smile. "I'm sure once it's fixed up though, this house could be grand."
"Yeah, I guess." Sirius nodded, running his hand along the dusty railing of the stairs that led down into the basement kitchen. Remus was right, as usual. With a lot of sprucing up, this place could make a decent home, so long as he could find a way to get rid of some of these permanent sticking charms his mother had a fondness for."Dumbledore, are you going to tell me more about Harry or not?" He asked once they got into the dingy kitchen.
"It is not at all advisable for you to take him away from his aunt and uncle, Sirius. As long as he's there, he's protected in the best way possible." Dumbledore sighed, taking a seat at the table. Sirius and Remus followed suit, Sirius sitting across from him and Remus beside him.
"I can protect him just fine." Sirius banged a hand on the table. "It's what James and Lily wanted, Dumbledore! They'd be completely mad with anger if they knew where their son was right now. I bet you they're rolling around in their graves right now, just thinking that their son is living with that… that… those people."
"It is for the best, Sirius. You must understand, he cannot be taken from his aunt and uncle unless circumstances call for it. If they were treating him badly or-"
"How can you be so sure that they aren't? That woman treated Lily, LILY! The nicest person on the bloody planet! Like absolute vile trash, Dumbledore! Just because she was a witch. What if Harry is going through the same thing because he's a wizard?"
"I'm sure he is perfectly fine, Sirius. The Dursleys have a son of their own who is about a year older than Harry."
"But how can you be sure?" Sirius asked, rising from his chair and pacing across the dirty floor, kicking up dust and causing himself to sneeze. He growled in a very dog like manner and punched the wall, his anger getting the better of him. After all that time in Azkaban, he had some built up emotions that he needed to get out. He gripped his hands into fists, shaking. "I'm sorry. Please, Dumbledore, let us at least check on him to make sure he's being treated right."
"I suppose I could send an owl to the Dursleys and see if…."
"No. No, we can't give them a chance to know we're coming. If they're not treating him right, they could cover their arses by being forewarned. We should just go. Right now." Sirius clasped his hands behind his back, pacing the floor quickly, his mind reeling. "You said it's the thirtieth right?"
"So tomorrow would be his birthday! It's perfect." Sirius nodded, grinning excitedly. "It's the perfect excuse to show up unannounced, not that I care about excuses. We could see him, make sure he's happy…"
"And what then, Sirius? Would you be able to leave him there?" Remus asked curiously, knowing his best friend better than that. "You know you wouldn't be able to."
"If… if he's attached to his aunt… if he's happy…" Sirius sighed, looking quite torn. "Then… I guess I'll have to." He sat back down, knowing what he said was true. Harry would be turning four the next day, and he wasn't about to be the one to tear him away from the only place he'd ever remember as being home, especially if he was pleased and cared for there. "But if he isn't being taken care of properly… I make no promises."
"Understandable." Dumbledore nodded. "I still think we should wait, perhaps, just a few days."
"Dumbledore, I'm not going to make it another hour away from that precious child." Sirius laughed crazily. "But, maybe after dinner. Let's see… I think we've still got a house elf around here someplace…"
Yay! A new story in the making. Don't worry, the others aren't abandoned, just... in a sticky place. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this and lemme know what you thought!