Hello and welcome to Year of the Dog, the sequel to Nocturnal. If you haven't read Nocturnal, I suggest you click my profile and get caught up. If you like H/Hr, you'll like Nocturnal.
A Dog's Tale
"You did very well, considering that was your first time swimming." Hermione said as they walked home from the neighborhood pool.
"Right." Harry sarcastically agreed as he buffed his hair with his towel. "Maybe next time I'll develop the courage to go where my feet don't touch anymore. I could graduate from 'standing while moist' to actual swimming."
Hermione poked the self-conscious wizard in the chest. "You were swimming, I watched you. Your feet left the bottom and you achieved some form of forward motion. That's swimming." The still-damp witch insisted, giving his hand a squeeze of encouragement.
It was then that they bumped into their newest friend again. No, not Luna. She was their second-newest friend. The newest was a large, black dog that had taken a particular liking to Harry. "Hello again." Harry smiled fondly as the dog cavorted back and forth in front of them, sometimes running a circle around them.
They'd noticed that the dog always seemed hungry and restless but never seemed to travel too far from the house. He followed them if they left the house on foot, and Hermione's mother once reported that a large black dog showed up at their dental surgery and hung around all day, only leaving long enough to follow Emma to lunch. Emma and the children were now well-acquainted with the dog, who'd taken to sleeping in the back yard. He didn't have a collar, which led Hermione to conclude that he was an incredibly well-behaved stray. Harry was constantly on the lookout for clean scraps of food for the dog. He knew what it was like to be hungry.
One day, the dog actually muscled its way into the house behind Harry, tearing off in the direction of the basement. Despite a thorough search, they somehow lost track of him. The strange part was that he still had to be in the house somewhere - they hadn't helped him leave, since they couldn't find him. The family went to sleep uneasily that night, knowing that they must still be sharing the house with the friendly but strange animal. Hermione checked under her bed twice before going to sleep.
Ultimately the dog did resurface, though in a very unexpected way.
Harry was awoken by a shifting on the bed accompanied by a sudden warmth against the soles of his feet. He opened his eyes to find the black dog. It seemed to be smiling cheekily at him in the dark.
"Hmf. Where were you hiding all day?" Harry murmured groggily. The dog didn't pose an immediate problem, and Harry assumed that it wouldn't manage to disappear so completely again while he slept, so he decided against trying to force him out of the house.
"Hi Harry." There was a gaunt-faced dark-haired stranger sitting at the foot of his bed now instead of a dog, but for some reason Harry was unperturbed. "I've wanted to visit you for a long time. I had something to tell you, but I couldn't get away. I needed to tell you in private, so I had to give you all the slip earlier. Sorry about that."
"You're the dog." Harry marveled sleepily.
"Yes. And your father was my best friend." Sirius nodded sadly. He sighed, and looked at Harry hopefully. "It's been a while, Harry. I don't know if anyone's ever told you, but I'm your Godfather." He explained hesitantly.
Harry cracked a small smile. A Godfather. That was almost family.
The shaggy stranger appeared relieved at Harry's smile and extended a hand in greeting. Harry was beginning to feel more energetic all of a sudden, so he took the proffered hand and shook it warmly. The shaggy man took special care to wait until he had Harry's hand to begin his introduction. "I'm Sirius Black, but you can call me Padfoot." He paused here, his smile tightening apprehensively, but Harry didn't know why. "The last time I saw you, you could almost pronounce it." He continued. "Probably best if you don't use my real name for the moment anyway, since I'm a wanted man."
"Wanted for what?" Harry wondered dubiously.
"It's a long story, Harry." Sirius sighed and began to tell Harry his own history.
The ragged man told Harry about the first time he a baby with messy black hair. He'd seen that hair every morning in the dorm - the kid already looked so much like James. But they were all grown up now, and someone had finally given James a comb. "See, Lily?" James chided. "He didn't even drop him! Best Godfather a boy could ask for."
"Maybe he'll inherit my Godfatherly good looks through osmosis." Sirius chuckled smoothly, though he felt his hands shake from the intensity of the moment – holding the child, he was awestruck for some reason, though he tried not to let it show.
"Better hope he doesn't end up looking too much like you, Sirius, or you'll both have some explaining to do." James warned. Sirius Black barked with laughter.
Sirius was imploring his old friend Peter to keep a secret – an important one. Everyone expected Sirius Black to be the Potter's Secret Keeper, but the doughy, beady-eyed man before him would be overlooked. Sirius was willing to forgo the honor of keeping the secret himself if that meant the secret would be even safer. Peter had eventually agreed.
But then the world came crashing down around him, and he was shrouded in darkness and rage. It was Halloween night, and James and Lily were dead. Young Harry had survived somehow, but recklessly, foolishly, Sirius took off in pursuit of Peter.
The traitor was always a few steps ahead, dodging his curses, leading him on a chase through what felt like every place he'd ever been, always apparating just quickly enough to elude capture, though not so quickly that he couldn't follow. Sirius's opening volley had included a tracking charm, and he never gave the rat a spare moment to remove it. Peter could only keep running.
They had already broken the statute of secrecy. The last few leaps had been through muggle London, and several muggles had seen them trade spellfire, but he didn't care. He wanted Peter broken and bleeding, but he knew the rat had to be alive enough to give a confession – no other living soul knew that Peter had been the secret-keeper.
They ended up in the vicinity of the Leaky Cauldron in London - probably the only landmark in muggle London that Peter knew. Sirius sprinted after the increasingly desperate man. Peter now resorted to banishing cars – both parked and occupied – toward him at immense speeds. Precise spellwork had never been Peter's strong suit, so he was stalling by forcing Sirius to rescue innocents. With mounting frustration, the black sheep of the Blacks pointed his wand at a crumpled muggle's foot and muttered a quick "portus" to turn his shoe into a portkey. The poor bastard had caught one of Peter's flying cars full in the chest, and he knew that St. Mungo's was faster than an ambulance.
That had cost him valuable time, and Peter was now a mile away. Sirius threw himself into the void again and came out the other side to an unexpected scene. Peter was standing ready for him. He wasn't going to run this time. The nearby muggles had heard the commotion down the street but had no idea Peter was the cause. Sirius kept his wand pointed at Peter and slowly approached. "Put down your wand, Peter. You're going to answer for what you've done. For Lily and James." The bystanders gasped and both men gripped their wands tightly, though Sirius's arm shook with rage. "You can either let the muggles be and come with me, or I can bring you to the aurors in pieces. It's up to you."
"He's the murderer!" Peter shouted to the surrounding muggles, jerking his head toward Sirius.
Sirius slowly stepped closer, until he and Peter were no more than ten feet apart. At this distance, the fear in Peter's eyes was evident. Sirius's anger was fading to be replaced by a crushing sadness. How had the world gotten like this? James had been more of a brother than Regulus ever had. Lily was brilliant once James dragged her off her high horse. He'd turned on Remus out of fear that he would betray them. Sirius had nothing left, and Peter was the cause of it all.
"Why?" Sirius choked out.
"You have no idea what the Dark Lord is capable of." Peter hissed. Suddenly his wand arm twitched. Sirius roared a protego and prepared to parry, but Peter's flourish followed through all the way to the street below them, which erupted.
When his vision returned, he saw through the haze of dust that he'd been knocked back twenty feet by the blast. The street was deathly quiet aside from a few low moans and the cries of distant witnesses. He knew the nearby muggles had been obliterated. His ears were still ringing. The next thing he saw was a forest of auror robes. Just before they approached him, he caught a glimpse of a bloody rat scurrying into the gutter and gaped. It wasn't a suicide. He could no longer feel the tracking charm. Peter had bought himself a little time, and he'd won.
Sirius knew that this was the end for him. He'd be condemned for the deaths of his best friends. Maybe he deserved it for not seeing Peter's betrayal coming. Peter had always been a coward. Why had he chosen a coward for a decoy? The ludicrous injustice of it all overwhelmed him, and he laughed. The aurors around him looked disgusted when, as he was hauled to his feet in a body bind, he was still roaring with insane laughter.
He was arrested for the murder of Peter Pettigrew and thirteen muggles. Only after he was thrown into a holding cell did his laughs turn into sobs. Finally, the thought of the child struck him. Peter had taken the boy's parents, and his own recklessness had denied the boy a Godfather, all in one night. "Harry. Harry, what have I done to you?" He moaned pitifully on the cold floor of the ministry.
The next thing he knew, he was in a cell in Azkaban, reliving the horror of losing his best friends every time the dementors passed his door. Eventually, whether weeks or months later, the effect of the creatures lessened. He found a way to cope. A long tongue licking a dull black paw. His fur had never looked so sorry as it did on the Azkaban diet.
Many vague eternities later, he saw the newspaper – the one showing the Weasley family after they had won the galleon draw. He shifted briefly out of canine form so that he could verify with sharper human eyes what he had suspected: the rat on the youngest boy's shoulder was Peter Pettigrew.
"Makes you mad, doesn't it?" The dark-haired man asked quietly.
"So..." Harry began slowly, rubbing his forehead while assembling the apparent facts. "Peter Pettigrew is Ron's rat?" The question came off as incredulous.
"How long has Ron had his rat?" The older man challenged him.
"Since he started Hogwarts, but his brother had him before that. For years, actually." Harry suddenly realized. "How long do rats normally live?"
"Not this long." Sirius hissed. "But his days are numbered now that I'm out." The older man's demeanor changed dramatically with a clap of his hands. "So, after we find a certain rat and I get my accounts unfrozen, I've got twelve of your birthdays to make up for. How are you set for quidditch gear?"
"Pretty well, actually." Harry smiled and related the story of his time at Hogwarts so far.
"Well, Mr. Rising Quidditch Star. Youngest seeker in a hundred years? Catching the snitch with your mouth? I must admit I wasn't on your level in my first year. And a girlfriend by second year – how'd you manage that without me around as an advisor?" Sirius feigned offense. "Speaking of that, how are you going to break this 'Godfather on the run' business to your lady friend?" Sirius asked, jerking his thumb toward Hermione's room.
"Oh..." Harry exhaled slowly. How exactly would he do that?
"I don't mind staying on all fours for a while, really," Sirius began, "but I would at least like to be sure I'll have something to eat. I'll pay you back for the food when we clear my name, with an obscene amount of interest. Twelve Christmases worth."
Harry shook his head. "You really don't have to. I think I have enough pounds for extra food, and Mr. Granger seems to have a soft spot for animals anyway." He paused, and his lips curled up with genuine gratitude. "Having a Godfather is definitely enough to cover a few missed holidays."
Sirius splayed one hand over his own chest and put the other on Harry's shoulder. "Especially one this handsome." He nodded sagely.
Harry smiled and laughed in agreement. "I'll tell her today. In the meantime, I'll try and save you some food from breakfast."
Harry and Hermione walked at a leisurely pace, enjoying the fine weather and holding hands. Harry was particularly enjoying the opportunity to see Hermione in muggle clothing, as it somehow made her look more carefree. Of course, he would trade the fine view in a heartbeat for the opportunity to sleep together again. He really missed holding her at night.
Harry noticed Sirius in dog form chewing on a stick a few lawns away, and decided that now was probably a good time to make his very odd pitch. He nervously rubbed his thumb over Hermione's hand, and she rewarded his action with a squeeze and a smile.
"So, I have something strange to tell you." He began awkwardly. Hermione looked confused, then concerned. "It's not bad news!" He added hastily. "It's just incredibly weird and I'm worried you won't believe me."
Hermione tilted her head and smiled a smile that was equal parts adoring and chastising. "I trust you, Harry. If you say that it's true, I'll believe you."
"That dog is my Godfather." Harry said, pointing at Sirius, who hopped to his feet and approached, panting and wagging.
Hermione gazed at the dog who seemed to be offering her a paw. She did not immediately accept it. "Your Godfather." She stated.
"You don't believe me." Harry suggested, though his tone implied that he didn't hold it against her.
"I trust you, so I believe you, but... I'm struggling with this one." She admitted. The dog sat in front of her, still panting and wagging. "Since when do you even have a Godfather? Shouldn't you have gone to live with him instead of the Dursleys?" The dog barked in agreement.
"There was a... problem, and he didn't have the chance to take care of me. We're hoping to fix the problem, though." Harry explained.
"So... he's an animagus, like Professor McGonagall?" Hermione asked, trying to squeeze a rational conclusion from the information she'd been given.
"Yes." Harry nodded, happy that she seemed to believe him.
"Well." Hermione sighed, relieved that things had started to make sense. She bent down and offered the dog her hand, which he placed his paw into. "And what's his name?" She asked as she shook the paw in polite greeting.
"Sirius." Harry replied.
Hermione dropped the paw and groaned. "If you told me that whole story for the sake of one lame dog pun... I still love you, but really, Harry." She shook her head in disbelief.
"What?" Harry asked. "That's his name!"
"He's a dog animagus named after the dog star? That's a bit too convenient, Harry." She laughed.
"Well, maybe his parents were seers?" Harry offered, looking to Sirius for confirmation. Sirius let out two sharp barks that seemed like laughter. "Maybe not then. Just a coincidence?" Harry asked, and the dog gave two little jumps. It was unmistakably a nod.
Hermione had stopped laughing and was looking at Sirius with genuine wonder. "So why doesn't he return to human form and introduce himself?" She inquired.
"Ah..." Harry looked to Sirius, who looked up and down the street before shaking his head. "He can't right now."
Hermione looked confused, but suddenly gasped. "Is he stuck that way?" She demanded in alarm.
"No." Harry quickly assured her. "He just can't afford to be seen in public."
"Oh..." Hermione calmed down. "Is he unregistered?" She asked in a low voice, though there was no one near them.
Sirius barked in agreement and increased the speed of his wagging.
Hermione grabbed Harry's hand again. "Well," she began, swinging their hands back and forth as they continued down the street, "we'll just have to bring him back to the house so he can change in peace, then."
Harry felt immense relief. Hermione was not working with all the relevant information, but her invitation was exactly what he'd been after.
"He can stay for dinner. I'm sure my parents would love to meet him." She suggested.
Harry and Sirius both let out a small whine. "We might have to hold off on that. And maybe start hiding the newspapers."