How he hated Thursdays. Most people hated Mondays, and Sirius Black hated Thursdays. Every Thursday of his life he remembered the Thursday that things had started to go wrong. The Thursday he very nearly killed Severus Snape.
He hated Thursdays.
"Black? It's time to go."
There was a meeting, today, he vaguely remembered. Something to do with Dumbledore. Sirius never used to forget anything – every word, every insult, every stinging reply – he never let anything pass him by. He had never been an introspective child, and perhaps if he'd looked a little deeper, scratched the surface, thought before he acted he wouldn't be sitting in this room. Dead man walking, boys, dead man walking.
Walking into a circular room, which contained a circular table. Sitting at the circular table were the Order of Phoenix, or what was left of them. Dumbledore's secret weapons, his silent arrows. These were the people who didn't answer to the Ministry, who held the key to their own destiny. They didn't entrust their fates to bureaucrats scared of losing their piece of the pie, and Sirius respected them for it. If he'd looked a little deeper, scratched the surface, thought before he acted maybe he'd be sitting in this room.
Dead man walking.
From the corner of his eye he could see Remus watching him. They'd spoken, briefly. After that joyful reunion in the Shack, Sirius had been able to think about what he'd done, about what he'd put certain people through. No, he didn't want to speak at length with Remus, not just yet. It would be better for Remus if he could just forget he'd ever had a friend like Sirius Black, ever called such a man his brother.
Or would it be better for you, Sirius? That was the irritating side effect of having been left to rot in Azkaban for twelve years. He'd finally got the introspective thing down to an art. Sirius Black had a relentless conscience. He scrutinised every word, every insult, every stinging reply for fault, and found blame aplenty. Most of it lay with him.
Perhaps he should have been sent back.
"Ah, Sirius. A pleasure, as always." Dumbledore's voice was warm, and it made Sirius, the real Sirius, want to break down into a crumpled heap on the floor. Fake Sirius had been operating to the public for a couple of years now. Fake Sirius was a protective godfather, a good listener, someone to depend on in your hour of need.
Real Sirius was an emotional wreck. Real Sirius was still crying in that cell, on that island, pulling at his matted hair, analysing every single bloody detail. Fortunately, Fake Sirius was in control most of the time. He could live with being Fake Sirius, just about.
He smiled, the smile that he'd used so many times to bend everyone to his way of thinking. "Thank you for the invitation."
They were all staring at him, interested. McGonagall had already spoken with him, Snape as well. He'd seen Mrs Figg when he went to round everyone up, and Mundungus had gone so far as to hug him. The others were a mixed group. Mad-Eye Moody had taken his rightful place by Albus, and Sirius tried not to look at the all-seeing eye. He wasn't sure if it could see through clothes or not, and he was still embarrassed about the scars.
Real Sirius hated that remnant of vanity. He'd been a good-looking man, once, had something to be vain about. Self-conscious at the searching looks, Sirius resisted the urge to hide his face and carried on smiling.
"Everybody here knows of your innocence," said Mrs Figg gently. Sirius never called her Arabella. "We want to help you prove it to the rest of the world. We want to help you find Pettigrew."
Real Sirius stopped wallowing for a moment and tried to clap sarcastically. Fake Sirius made his eyes shine with unshed tears of gratitude and responded in a choked voice. "You don't know how much that means to me."
"We'll be sparin' ye two of the bes', my lad," said Mundungus, smoking reflectively on a pipe. "Two 'o my bes' Unspeakables and Remus Lupin to boot."
Sirius looked up sharply. "I don't want Remus in any danger."
"I'm coming with you," said Remus, in that damned reasonable voice. "Whether you like it or not, Padfoot."
"Is that acceptable, Sirius?" Dumbledore asked him. "From what Harry's said, Pettigrew is currently Voldemort's right-hand man. This isn't simply a mission to clear your name, it's a vital part of the fight. Don't you want to fight again? For Harry?"
That's right, old man. Pull on the heartstrings. Sirius sighed.
"Where do we start?"