don’t own Harry Potter; anything you recognize belongs to JK
Rowling, who is kind enough to let people play in her sandbox from time to
ONE: THE FINDING
“Lumos,” Harry said quietly, drawing a blinding light
from the end of his wand. Still, he
blinked, staring deep into the shadows, certain that something or someone was
watching him—and for one short moment, he caught a glimpse of wide and gleaming
eyes staring back at him.
a moment he stood frozen, unable to move despite the fact that his instincts
were screaming at him to retreat. Just
as he started to take a step backwards, though, he heard a hurried whisper
speak from not far away. “There he
Harry stumbled sideways, almost tripping over his trunk. There was something eerily familiar about
that voice, and although he could not recall where he had heard it before,
Harry knew that it had to be someone sent by the Ministry of Magic. He’d broken the Decree for the Restriction of
Underage Wizardry by blowing up his Aunt Marge; Harry didn’t know for sure if
they would arrest him or just outlaw him from the Wizarding world, but he knew
that he wasn’t going to stick around to find out. Just thinking about the consequences made
his heart sink, though, and images of Ron and Hermione immediately sprung to
his mind. He’d have to go on the run,
now, and Harry knew that he would miss them terribly. They were the only real friends he’d ever
low growl startled him out of his morose thoughts, and Harry spun, raising his
wand hurriedly. However, only the
hulking outline of a gigantic dog stood before him; the creature had moved out
of the shadows as Harry rushed to escape.
For a moment, he met the dog’s pale eyes, and he saw white teeth flash
in the darkness as a second voice broke the silence.
shadowy figures strode up Magnolia
Their faces were masked and they wore hooded cloaks of a type Harry had
never seen before—but both had wands raised and at the
ready. Taking an instinctive step
backwards, Harry suddenly tripped over his trunk, and before he could react,
the taller of the two cried:
he could react, Harry’s wand had been ripped from his hand and he lay helpless
on the ground. He cast a quick glance
around for help, but his only asset was his broom; even the giant dog was
gone. Suddenly, Harry felt very, very,
Potter…” the first voice drawled. “Fancy
meeting you here…”
nudged at the corner of his mind even as Harry struggled to his feet. He knew that he recognized that voice—but his
broom was only a few feet away, and if he could make it—
even think about it, boy.”
Malfoy, Harry suddenly thought.
Behind the mask, the tall wizard’s aristocratic voice was impossible to
miss, and the recognition made Harry feel very cold. Somehow I don’t think he’s here from the
other wizard laughed as Harry froze.
Malfoy, however, continued: “You’d best come along quietly, Potter. There’s someone who would very much like to
are you talking about?” Harry demanded, his heart beating so fast that he could
barely hear himself think.
didn’t think the Dark Lord would stay gone forever do you?” Malfoy drawled,
strolling towards him. “Little remains
to bring him back…simply you.”
“Me?” If only Harry could keep them talking, then
he might have a chance.
you, fool.” Irritation crept into
Malfoy’s voice. “Take him, Avery.”
taller of the two reached for him even as Harry leapt for his broom, hoping
against hope that he might be able to reach it in time—but a hard hand grasped
his arm, pulling him back. Not knowing
what else to do, Harry brought his right foot forward and kicked Avery in the
knee; the wizard howled angrily, but didn’t let go of Harry’s arm, no matter
how hard the boy tugged. Suddenly,
though, Avery cursed, and a giant black shadow soared out of the darkness,
growling and snarling dangerously—
the—” Malfoy’s aristocratic drawl was gone, tinged with worry and with fear as
the humongous dog bowled into Avery, tearing the wizard away from Harry. Startled, the boy wizard backed away,
tripping over his trunk again in his haste to retreat.
the bloody dog off me—Oww!” Avery howled.
distant corner of Harry’s mind registered that lights were coming on all over Magnolia Crescent
as the residents began to realize that something odd was going on in the
street. But there was no time for
thought, or even for action—Harry was strangely frozen as he lay sprawled over
his trunk in the gutter. All he could to
do was watch as the dog’s teeth fastened on Avery’s arm and the wizard yowled
Avery!” Malfoy snarled, trying to aim for the dog, which was partly shielded by
the other wizard. Malfoy fired off a
curse and missed, and Avery finally toppled to the ground underneath the
creature’s weight. Unfortunately, that
offered Malfoy a clear shot at the dog—
the dog was gone. Frantically, Harry
looked around for his savior, but could not see the hulking animal—until a
shadowy figure rose from the street with Avery’s wand in hand.
“Stupefy!” the man croaked, felling
Avery even as the wizard struggled to his feet.
Red light washed over the street, illuminating a ghastly white face and
matted, long hair. The hand that held
Avery’s wand was bony, yet its aim was steady enough, and the mysterious man
started to swing around before Avery even hit the ground. Meanwhile, Malfoy’s arrogant voice delved
into panicked surprise.
“You!” Harry couldn’t
see Malfoy’s expression behind the mask, but he was willing to bet that it was
shocked. Unfortunately, the surprise
didn’t seem to slow the dark wizard down; immediately, his wand came up. “Imperi—”
other was faster, and Malfoy hit the ground with a thud, leaving Harry alone
with a stranger who most definitely wasn’t from the Ministry of Magic, either.
For a long moment, the mystery wizard faced Malfoy’s downed form,
staring at the unconscious man; then he slowly moved over to collect the
other’s wand. His movements were stiff,
though, as if he hadn’t used his limbs in a long time or had been sitting still
for too long. Finally, he turned to face
Harry, and the young wizard blinked in recognition.
It was him. It was Black, the escaped convict who had
been on the Muggle news. His black hair
was matted and tangled, elbow length, just like it had been on the
television. But his gaunt face was
different, now. On the screen, Black’s
features had seemed dead; his eyes had been empty and devoid of life. Now, though, his blue eyes burned with
intensity that made Harry’s skin crawl.
It hardly entered Harry’s mind to wonder how an escaped Muggle criminal
might know magic; he was too busy trying to control his breathing and wondering
irrelevantly where the dog went. Black
stared unblinkingly at the boy, who for a long moment could think of nothing
else to do but stare back—and then he remembered his wand. It had fallen to the ground with Malfoy, and
wasn’t very far away at all.
Harry dove for the wand even as
Black blinked for the first time.
Although he knew he had little chance of beating a grown wizard who had
two wands in his hands—and Black had
to be a wizard; nothing else made
sense—his reflexes were good from having played two years of Quidditch and he
had to take the chance. Plunging over
his trunk, Harry twisted and rolled, coming up with his wand pointed at
Black. However, the Stunning Curse
abruptly died before it could leave his lips.
Black hadn’t moved.
He hadn’t even raised his wand. Either wand. Instead, he was simply staring at Harry as if he’d never seen a thirteen-year-old boy before. His pale blue eyes were the only living part
of his skull-like face, and they were fastened on Harry. Black’s gaze was unnerving, and it sent a
chill down the young wizard’s spine, but he didn’t cast a spell. Somehow, Harry wasn’t sure that he
should. The pieces just didn’t add up;
nothing made sense. Black had just saved
The silence became chilling. Down the street, voices began calling to one
another, and Harry knew that he had to run—but Black continued to stare, and
Harry couldn’t help but meet his eyes. I have to go, he told himself desperately. Someone is going to find me and then
I’ll end up in some Muggle police station and they’ll—What would they do with Black? What could they do with him? Black wasn’t just another Muggle
prisoner. He was a wizard. A wizard. And he was on the run from the law, just like
Harry. Another chill wormed its way down
his spine as he remembered the Muggle newscaster’s words. “…Black is armed and extremely
dangerous. A special hot line has been
Suddenly, the escaped convict
shook his head, moving so slowly that it seemed like he was underwater.
“Hello, Harry,” he finally
said. His voice sounded dry and hoarse, as
if it hadn’t been used for a long time.
“What do you want?” Harry
whispered. He struggled to keep his hand
steady and his wand pointed at the taller man, but it was hard.
“My name is Sirius Black…” The
voices from the other end of the street grew louder and closer,
and Black’s eyes nervously turned in that direction. “We don’t have much time.”
Suddenly, Black stepped close to
Harry, separated from him by only the width of the trunk. “Look, I’m going to have to ask you to trust
me, no matter what…” Something flashed in his shadowed eyes, and he
swallowed. “I knew your parents, and…”
“You knew my parents?” Harry asked
eagerly, forgetting all about approaching Muggles and escaped convicts. A part of him knew that he ought to be more
cautious, but it was hard to even think straight. Black had saved his life. Black had known his parents. “How?”
him! The convict!” a woman’s
voice suddenly screeched, and Harry distantly recognized it as old Mrs. Figg, whose house always smelled of cabbage and had too
many cats. “Sirius
bony hand reached out and grasped Harry’s arm without warning. “Please,” he whispered urgently. “Trust me.
Fling out your wand and call the Knight Bus. It’s the only chance either one of us has—”
call the police!” a man shouted.
“The Knight Bus?” Harry echoed cluelessly.
footsteps echoed against the pavement, coming closer and closer. “Just do it!” Black hissed. “Tell them to take you to Grimmauld Place!”
he disappeared from Harry’s side, leaving a giant black dog in his place. Everything snapped into place at that moment,
and Harry decided to take the biggest chance of his life. Without hesitation, he flung his right arm
out, trusting in a man he’d hardly met and never even heard of—
BANG! Harry threw up his hands to shield himself
from the unexpected and blinding light.
At his side, the dog flinched slightly, whining very quietly. It—Black—stepped very close to Harry as a
triple-decker purple bus came into view amongst surprised exclamations from the
Muggles. Written in gold letters over
the windshield was The Knight Bus, and a purple-clad conductor leapt out
of the bus and began to speak loudly, oblivious of the staring Muggles.
to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard. Just stick out your wand hand, step on board,
and we can take you anywhere you ant to go.
My name is Stan Shunpike, and I will be your conductor this evening.”
stared. Stan Shunpike was hardly any
older than he was, and his ears were laughably large. But the pimpled conductor was looking at him
strangely. “’S a big dog, you have
very well behaved,” Harry promised, remembering that some Muggle places didn’t
allow pets. What would he do if he had
to get on the bus without Black? He
didn’t have any clue where or what Grimmauld
Place was, or what even to do with the Knight Bus—
“Woss that on your ‘ead?”
Stan asked abruptly, seemingly not caring about the dog anymore.
gulped and pushed his bangs down so they covered his scar. The last thing he needed was to be recognized
by a wizard—but before he could answer, a Muggle’s
voice came from the darkened street.
the conductor’s head snapped around to stare at the approaching Muggles. “What’re they doing ‘ere?” he demanded
nervously. “They’re Muggles!”
know, I know—”
c’mon then!” Stan abruptly grabbed Harry by the arm, dragging him onto the
bus. A flick of the conductor’s wand
made Harry’s trunk and Hedwig’s cage follow, and the dog jumped up right after
them. Harry hardly had time to notice
the fact that the bus had beds instead of seats before Stan had turned to face
the elderly wizard who sat in the driver’s seat. “Step on it, Ern! There’s Muggles out ‘ere!”
“Muggles?” Ern echoed, squinting
out from behind his thick glasses.
go!” Harry pleaded urgently, staring out the window at the gathering
crowd. One of them was almost close
enough to touch the rapidly closing doors, and he recognized Mrs. Figg standing at the back of the group. Oddly enough, she was just standing there,
frowning and looking very, very worried—
was a tremendous BANG, then, and Harry was thrown off his feet as the Knight
Bus took off. The dog—Black—barked
irritably, but he at least had remained on his feet, seemingly having expected
the sudden lurch. After struggling to
his feet, Harry glanced out the darkened window, and noticed that they were on
a completely different street. He let
out a relieved breath. They were
safe…for now, anyway.
he said quietly.
problem,” Stan replied promptly. “Glad te help out.” But then he frowned. “What were you doin’ with all those Muggles, though?”
Harry swallowed. He couldn’t exactly
tell the truth, could he? “I fell,” he
said quickly. “I fell and my wand went
off—they must have seen the light or something.”
“Oh. Well, anyways, you can ‘ave
this bed,” Stan said, helpfully sliding Harry’s trunk underneath the bed
directly behind the driver. “This is
Ernie Prang, by the way. Our driver.”
Harry said politely, then tried to change the subject before Stan realized how
ridiculous his story sounded. “How much
will it cost to go to Grimmauld
brow wrinkled in concentration. “Grimmauld Place…
that’s in London,
Harry answered quickly, hoping that he was right. If not, well…
Stan smiled. “But for firteen you get ‘ot
chocolate, and for fifteen you get an ‘ot water
bottle an’ a toofbrush in the color of your choice.”
“Okay.” After some rummaging, Harry pulled his money
bag out of his trunk and shoved some gold into Stan’s hand, flattening his
bangs out over his forehead as he did so.
Then he sat down on the bed, noticing how Black’s uncanny blue eyes
followed Stan, watching him carefully.
It was almost as if Black was trying to protect him—
“Woss your name, again?” the conductor suddenly asked.
Longbottom,” Harry replied quickly, saying the first name that popped into his
head. Fortunately, Stan didn’t ask any
more questions, and Harry was left to look out the window in silence, watching
trees, lampposts, and mailboxes jump out of the Knight Bus’ way. Every so often, the boy wizard looked at Black,
but the dog had laid down quietly on the floor, and
seemed to be sleeping—though something told Harry that illusion was a lie.
the bus made a stop and a green-clad witch clambered down the steps, Stan
pulled out a battered copy of the Daily Prophet and began to read. It only took Harry a moment to recognize the
sunken-faced man whose photograph was on the cover, and he had to catch his
breath before he said something foolish.
Instinctively, Harry glanced down at the dog, but Black still seemed to
sleep, completely ignorant that his face graced the front page of the Wizarding
world’s premier newspaper.
I read that when you’re done?” Harry asked as calmly as he could manage.
“Sure. I wuz done,
anyways,” Stan replied cheerfully, handing the paper over. Harry’s eyes widened, then, as he read:
BLACK STILL AT LARGE
Black, possibly the most infamous prisoner
ever to be held in Azkaban fortress, is still eluding
capture, the Ministry of Magic confirmed today.
“We are doing all we can to recapture Black,” said
of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, this
morning, “and we
beg the magical community to
Fudge has been criticized by some members of
International Confederation of Warlocks for
Muggle Prime Minister of the crisis.
“Well, really, I had to, don’t you know,” said an
Fudge. “Black is mad. He’s a danger to
crosses him, magic or Muggle. I have
Minister’s assurance that he will not
breathe a word of Black’s true identity to anyone.
And let’s face it—who’d believe him if he did?”
While Muggles have been told that Black is
carrying a gun (a
kind of metal wand that Muggles
use to kill
each other), the magical community lives
in fear of a
massacre like that of twelve years ago,
murdered thirteen people with a single
a long moment, Harry stared at the picture, willing it to turn into someone
else. He didn’t want to believe that the
man who had saved his life was a murderer—he’d stopped Malfoy and Avery from
taking Harry to Voldemort. And he’d said
that he knew Harry’s parents…
inee?” Stan asked suddenly, startling Harry
out of his dark thoughts.
murdered thirteen people?” the boy whispered nervously, struggling not to look
at the dog. He still didn’t want to
believe it. Black had asked him to trust
him, and Harry had—betrayal welled up in his stomach. “With one curse?”
Stan replied with forced lightness, “in front of witnesses an’ all. Broad daylight. Big trouble it caused, dinnit,
“Ar,” Ern said darkly.
suddenly turned to look at Harry, who was feeling alternately cold and
terrified all at once. “Black was a big
supporter of You-Know-‘Oo.”
“Yeah.” Stan shuddered. “Very close to You-Know-‘Oo, they say. Anayway, when little ‘Arry Potter
got the better of You-Know-‘Oo—”
heart was pounding so loudly that he hardly heard the rest. Instead, his eyes turned, quite against his
will, to look again at the dog. At Black.
the dog wasn’t feigning sleep anymore.
His eyes were suddenly bright, and they met Harry’s own without
hesitation. Black’s words echoed in his
head. “I’m going to have to ask you
to trust me, no matter what…” Those
blue eyes were watching him pleadingly now, human eyes shining out from a dog’s
face, and Harry’s breath caught in his throat.
“I knew your parents…”
was tracked down, wasn’t they, Ern? Most of ‘em knew it
was all over, wiv You-Know-‘Oo gone, and they came quiet. But not Sirius Black. I ‘eard he thought
‘e’d be second-in-command once You-Know-‘Oo ‘ad taken over.
they cornered Black in the middle of a street full of Muggles an’ Black took
out ‘is wand and ‘e blasted ‘alf the street apart,
an’ a wizard got it, an’ so did a dozen Muggles what got in the way. ‘Orrible,
you know what Black did then?” Stan continued in a dramatic whisper.
Harry asked hollowly, simply because Stan seemed to expect it. Inside, though, his head was whirling. It just doesn’t make sense, he thought
desperately. Why would he save me from Malfoy if he was working for
Voldemort? Harry could hardly
breathe. Why was Malfoy so surprised
to see him?
eyes were still on him, and the dog whined quietly, resting his head on Harry’s
foot. The boy almost pulled away, but
Black kept staring, watching him and asking him, silently, to trust.
said Stan. “Jus’ stood there an’—‘re you
was staring at Harry, who suddenly realized that he must have gone very
pale. He gulped quickly, tearing his
eyes off Black. “I think I ate something
bad,” Harry said. “I don’t feel too
could feel the dog’s eyes upon him, but Stan smiled sympathetically. “You oughta lie
down then, probably,” he said. “I’ll
wake you up when we reach London.”
Harry whispered complying, but he didn’t dare turn his back on Black. His thoughts were all in a jumble—first, the
words of the Daily Prophet article and Stan’s explanation kept running
through his head, and second, he kept seeing Black bowl Avery over and stun
both him and Malfoy. It just didn’t make
sense. Why would Black save him
if they all worked for Voldemort?
course, it was entirely possible that Malfoy’s father didn’t work for
Voldemort, no matter what Mr. Weasley said—but Harry had heard Malfoy
say that they were going to take him to Voldemort. He’d said that Harry was the only
thing necessary to bring Voldemort back.
But if Black was one of his followers, too, why had he stunned Malfoy
and Avery? “I knew your parents.”
it possible? Could they be wrong
about Black? Or was he just lying? Harry swallowed, glancing once more at the
dog. Black’s eyes were flickering
between Ernie and Stan now, but every so often they turned again to Harry,
watching him protectively. Protectively?
Harry shook his head. Why
would he want to protect me? But
Black had saved his life…and Harry had nowhere else to go, anyway.
gulped back his fears, trying to convince himself that if Black had really
wanted to kill him, he’d be dead already.
And if Black really was a murderer, what was to keep him from cursing Ern and Stan right then?
Why did he keep hiding, and staring at Harry as if Harry ought to trust
him? Making his decision, Harry opened
his mouth to tell Stan the truth—but those eyes stopped him. For a long moment, all Harry could do was stare back at the escaped convict, and then his mouth slowly
slid shut. What did he have to lose?
had no way of knowing how much time had passed, but Harry never did drift off
to sleep. All he could do was stare in
silence, hoping and praying that nothing would go wrong. But before Harry knew it, he was standing on
the street just outside the Knight Bus.
“Thanks,” Harry said to Ern. Stan helped him
with his trunk and Hedwig’s cage, then after both conductor and driver bid him
farewell, Harry was left standing on the street with Sirius Black.
was a gigantic BANG and the Knight Bus vanished; a moment later, the dog also
disappeared and left Black standing in its place. Slowly, the skeletal man straightened, and
did not try to stop Harry from pulling his wand on him. His uncanny eyes just stayed focused on
Harry, the only live part of his otherwise dead face.
did not,” he said very quietly, “kill those people. Nor did I ever serve Voldemort.”
was the only wizard aside from Dumbledore who Harry had ever heard say the Dark
Lord’s name. He wished his hands weren’t
shaking so. “You—”
can’t stay here,” Black said hoarsely, glancing up the dark street.
not going anywhere until you give me a reason to,” Harry replied grimly, still
pointing his wand at the taller man.
can’t.” Something pained crossed his
shrunken face. “There isn’t time—you’ve
just got to trust me. Please.”
swallowed, and suddenly the possibilities flashed before his eyes as if he had
reached the fork in a road. To the left
lay the safe path, the one that he had stepped upon the moment he had run out
of his aunt and uncle’s house. That road
held loneliness and hardship, but at least it was one of his choosing. To the right, though, lay the path that Black
was offering—one where chance could mean everything and where he had to
trust. But that road also offered hope,
hope that he barely dared to grasp. The
choice, though, was a perilous one: darkness or hope. And it could only be one.
ticked by that they didn’t have to lose.
He’d either have to trust or run, and the time for choosing was up. Harry swallowed.
he whispered. “Let’s go.”