The Sugar Quill
Author: TheGreenWolf  Story: Faces from the Past  Chapter: Default
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Faces from the Past

Faces from the Past

 

Moonlight trickled in through the window, slightly lightening up the room he was in. Well, “window” could be debated. A “crack in the wall” was a much more suitable term. The window was about ten feet up the wall and was about half a foot wide and a foot long. It was better than nothing, though, he supposed; at least he usually got enough light with which to see.

 

But then, maybe that wasn’t such a good thing. It wasn’t as if there was anything worth seeing in the place. It was very small, barely long enough for him to stretch out in. The stones, which made up the floor and the walls, were in a state of perpetual dampness due to the nearby ocean. As such, there was a thin layer of mold over just about everything. He wouldn’t have been surprised had there been mold over him as well.

 

Just then he heard a soft, little scuttling sound and looked around. At first, Sirius couldn’t see anything, but then he saw movement out of the corner of his eyes. He turned to see a small furry something next to the wall. A rat!

 

He just watched the rat at first, never taking his eyes off of it as he sat perfectly still. Deep down in his throat, a growl began to rise, slowly becoming louder and more vicious. He started to move, crawling towards the rat, careful not to make a sound. Eyes narrowed, he raised his hands up, about to be brought down upon the unsuspecting rat, when it seemed to finally realize that Sirius was there. The rat gave a terrified squeak, and scampered off before he could catch it. He savagely hit the stone where the rat had just been and cursed.

 

Damned rat, Sirius thought.  The whole lot of them should be damned to hell. How is it that they always manage to slip through your fingers right when you think you’ve caught them? He began to growl again. That’s what Wormtail did, why would any other rat be different?

 

His hands balled themselves into fists, his fingernails digging into his filth-ridden skin. You’re going to pay, Peter. I swear I’m going to make you suffer. I don’t know when, but I’m going to make you pay for what you did to Lily and James…and Harry….

 

He drew in a deep breath and shuddered, not because of rage, but because of fear. No! He shook, his head trying to stop what he knew was coming, but it was too late. The Dementor at his cell door stirred, knowing that it was going to get to feed off him once more. He leaned against the wall and closed his eyes tightly. He tried to force himself to remember how he was innocent, tried to force himself to remember that it was Peter, not him. He shuddered again. No! I’m innocent!

 

The palms of his hands began to bleed once more as his nails sank deeper. He was being taken back to their house again, for what must have been the millionth time. He tried to struggle against it, tried to fight the memory away, even if he knew it was hopeless. And hopeless it was, for now he was there again.

           

He was riding his motorbike through the air, a cold dread rising up inside of him. As he drew nearer to Godric’s Hollow, he saw their house, smoldering, almost destroyed. As he sat in Azkaban he gave a dry sob, his whole body trembling, still trying to shake the memories out of his mind. His memories, however, were unwilling to cooperate and continued playing through Sirius’ head.

 

His motorbike landed in Lily and James’ garden and then he was running off towards the remains of their house. He kept trying to stop the memory, stop it before he was taken inside their house. It had been bad so far, but if he went inside again, it would be much, much, worse.

 

But then he was at the doorway, and seeing what he saw was no easier than it had been the first time. If possible, it was worse, because he knew exactly what he would find. He always hoped, though, that somehow, someway it would be different. Of course, it never was.

 

There was James, lying there dead, cold and still. Dead, because of what Sirius had done. Despair and guilt threatened to overcome him as he stood looking at James. He was forced to stand there much longer than he actually had all those years ago. It always seemed that the most excruciating parts of his worst memories were always lengthened and intensified.

 

He was shaking, almost violently, as he lay on the cold hard stones in his cell. He felt the bile rise up in his throat as he began to see James’ body, not in Godric’s Hollow, but right there in his cell, lying next to him.  “Prongs…” he croaked aloud. How could I have done this? he demanded of himself as he stared at where he thought his friend’s body lay. How could I? How could I have killed you? Killed you and Lily! He stretched out his hand to where he thought James lay, but before he could touch him, Sirius threw up instead.

 

Though he could no longer see James’ body in his cell now, his memories were certainly not going to give him a chance to recuperate. He was back in Lily and James’ house, walking down the hallway towards Harry’s room. Dread once again filled him, and once again he began to hope that he wouldn’t see what he knew was about to be shown to him. He pushed the door open, which was off one of its hinges, and walked in.

 

And there was Lily’s body, so peaceful and graceful looking. She had been so young, so full of life. She had been so happy. What had he done? He had killed them both, the two people who were closer and dearer to him than all the world!

 

He dug his claw like hands into his head. “No,” he muttered almost incoherently. “No…. What have I done?” But then he saw Harry, with the fresh cut upon his head. Harry, who looked so much like his father, had such an aura of innocence about him in his memory. What sort of life had he condemned Harry to, a life without his parents?

 

And then Harry was with Hagrid on his motorbike, flying off into the night. He had abandoned Harry. He had left him to his fate. Harry would now be brought up by his Muggle relatives. What had he done?

 

He was crying wholeheartedly, now, writhing on the floor because of all the pain and guilt. He knew he was about to be forced to relive the memory again, when he remembered something: Padfoot. Yes, he could transform into Padfoot, and then things wouldn’t be as bad. Then, maybe, he wouldn’t be forced to relive that memory or any other for a time.

 

He took a deep breath, trying to gather some energy, hoping that he would be able to transform before he was forced to relive his past again. He knew he wouldn’t be able to transform once the memories started over. Well, he had before, but it was always much more difficult to transform once they started.

 

He tried to picture Padfoot in his mind, though it was difficult when pictures of Lily and James’ dead bodies threatened to overrun his mind. Sirius mentally stuffed himself into Padfoot’s shape, and then he physically began to change as well. His arms lengthened, his hands and feet shrank into paws, his nose and mouth turned into a snout, his skin became covered in black fur. All of it happened within seconds.

 

Padfoot panted from exhaustion. He looked up to see the Dementor lurking just outside his cell. He knew that it was disappointed; they usually got to feed longer before a prisoner passed out. He was pretty sure that the Dementor was confused as well. Perhaps it sensed that Sirius had not actually passed out, but yet at the same time it did not have any better reason to explain why it could no longer feed on Sirius, either.

 

He shook his great shaggy head; if there was one bad thing about being Padfoot, it was the dog’s much keener sense of smell. Azkaban smelled horrible to begin with, but when he was Padfoot, the putrid smells of decay that permeated the fortress became almost unbearable.

 

But at least now he wasn’t forced to relive his past. Padfoot was sad over the loss of his friends, his pack, to be sure, but it seemed much more…distant. Padfoot knew that his past could kill him, and so the dog had overcome his horrors, survival being prized above all else in his mind. Padfoot knew that survival was the key to winning the hunt, to catching the quarry.

 

Right now, though, he was much too tired and hungry to care about anything else. There was no help for the hunger part of it, however. Most of his scant dinner lay in the bile on the floor, and he wouldn’t get any food until breakfast the next morning - if they served breakfast, that was. They sometimes forgot to feed the prisoners in the morning: so long as they were alive, the Dementors didn’t really care if their captives were on the edge of starvation.

 

He dragged himself slowly into one of the corners furthest away from the Dementor, not having enough energy to get up on his paws and walk the few steps to his destination. It had cost him what little energy he had to relive his experiences again this last time, and he distantly wondered whether or not he would have been able to survive if he had been made to relive them again.

 

He rolled onto his side, his thin, bony body resting uncomfortably on the stone floor. He curled up in a ball, trying to keep the chill out of his bones. He whimpered and whined quietly until he dropped off into a dark, uneasy sleep.

 

*     *     *

 

Dark. Everything was dark, the kind of pitch blackness that was more threatening than the gloomiest of midnights. For a moment, he considered the idea that he had died, though if he had, he couldn’t remember any of it. At first, he couldn’t make out anything in the darkness or make use of any of his other senses either. Then, he began to hear a noise in the void, although it was very far off. It eventually became louder, and then he realized that it was the slow constant drip-dropping of water into a puddle.

 

He tried to blink, though he had no idea if he actually did so or not. His sense of touch returned to his body, only for him to feel all the aches and stiffness that resided there. He stretched slightly, and blinked a few more times. The darkness faded away after a few moments, and he was then able to make out the all too familiar surroundings of his cell. He was trying to see if his muscles and bones would allow him to stretch a bit more when he heard a noise that made him freeze: footsteps.

 

The footsteps were distant, and he was only able to make them out because of Padfoot’s heightened sense of hearing. The footsteps were coming closer, though, and so he quickly transformed back into his human self. Sirius grimaced as all of the feelings of depression and despair came flooding back into him, trying to make him plunge back into the past. The only thing that kept him from doing so was the thin cracked wall of the knowledge that he was innocent.

 

He sat himself against the wall, one of his knees pulled up against his chest and the other leg lying out in front of him. At first, he wondered who would be walking down the halls of Azkaban, but seconds later he realized that it must be a couple of inspectors from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. They came once a week, always at midday when the Dementor’s powers were at their weakest, though it was horribly terrifying to be around one at anytime. They came every week without fail, and usually once a month an Auror would come and inspect the place. The Minister of Magic would also come to visit about once every year, though Sirius didn’t know if it was always a year to the exact date.

 

He tried to sit in the shadows of the cell, wanting as much as possible to blend in with the surroundings. He didn’t want to be noticed by the inspectors. Most of them walked by without a second glance, white and trembling and not wanting to spend anymore time there than was absolutely necessary. Some, however, would walk arrogantly by, perhaps sneering at the prisoners or throwing out a taunting line or two. In a way, Sirius didn’t blame them for it, especially with all the filth that they locked up in the fortress, but he still hated them nonetheless.

 

That wasn’t the only reason why he hated the inspectors, though. Every time they walked by, he was reminded of his lost freedom, reminded of the world outside of Azkaban. He had been a part of that world some ten years ago, but now he was just rotting away on this rock in the ocean. The inspectors represented both the fact that he was locked away where he could have no influence on the world and his key to freedom. For that, he both despised and loathed them.

 

The footsteps were almost to his cell now. In a few seconds, they would turn the corner and be at his cell. He looked sideways out the barred door, and was slightly surprised to see the Minister of Magic standing there. But then again, it had been about a year since he had last been there, so it wasn’t all that surprising. He wasn’t particularly happy that Fudge had come to visit, though. He hated him more than the regular inspectors, by far. Sirius could still remember the Minister helping to capture and arrest him after Peter had escaped. It was not one of Sirius’ fondest memories.

 

The Minister was looking around Sirius’ cell, and soon after at Sirius himself, with a look of revulsion on his face. Sirius would have liked to have growled at him, just to give him a bit of a scare, if it were not for the fact that Sirius really didn’t want to draw any more attention to himself. Fudge seemed to be speaking with the Dementor at his cell, now, and Sirius smiled wryly. He could tell that Fudge was trying to act as if the Dementor had no effect on him, but Sirius could also see that the Minister’s eyes were slightly wider than was natural and that there were beads of sweat on his forehead.

 

The Dementor turned and glided away in the opposite direction that Fudge had come, perhaps on some request of the Minister’s. Sirius could feel the despair lessen, although it was still noticeably there. He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to enjoy it while it lasted. A few moments later, though, he heard the rustling of paper. He became curious, the rustling of paper not being a typical sound in Azkaban, and looked to see what Fudge was doing.

 

The Minister was leaning up against the far wall, holding open and reading a newspaper. Sirius figured that he was waiting for the Dementor to return and was trying to take his mind off the effects of Azkaban in the meantime. Sirius was about to go back to enjoying the absence of the Dementor when he noticed the picture on the front page of Fudge’s paper.

 

The picture was of what seemed to be a large family in front of the pyramids of Egypt. They were all happy and smiling, but it seemed slightly forced, as if the Dementors had an effect on pictures as well. He wasn’t interested in the family, though. What captivated him was what was sitting on the shoulder of one of the boys.

 

It was a rat. Sirius stared at it intently for a while, unable to take his eyes off of it. It couldn’t be, could it? After all these years, could it really be? Had he spent all those years as a rat? It was impossible…wasn’t it? No, it wasn’t impossible, not with that rat.

 

He shook his head to clear his mind. He needed to see the picture closer, needed to make sure that the rat was really Peter and not his mind playing tricks on him. The rat in the picture was too small for him to be positive.

 

Sirius stood up and walked slowly on his weak legs over to the cell door. He leaned against the wall, looking out. He stared for a few moments more, still quite sure that it was Peter. He needed that paper, though; he needed to be completely certain.

 

Sirius tore his eyes off the paper and looked at Fudge. How to best ask him for the paper without him getting afraid of him – the notorious mass murderer – and calling the Dementor back? “So, reading the paper?” asked Sirius with an attempt of nonchalance, although the attempt was partially spoiled by the roughness of his parchment-like voice.

 

Fudge jumped and lowered his paper, his face a mixture of surprise and suspicion. “Yes,” he said slowly, “haven’t had the time to finish it yet. It’s been quite a busy day today.”

 

Fudge studied Sirius a bit longer and then went back to reading his paper. Sirius watched him like a predator watched its prey as the Minister turned the pages. After a few minutes, Fudge folded it up and put it back into a pocket in his robes.

 

“Are you finished with your paper?” Sirius asked him. He was trying very hard to not start tearing at the bars in an effort to get at the paper. “I miss doing the crossword,” he added.

 

Fudge seemed to be intimidated by him, despite his best efforts to look and act as docile and sane as possible. “Ah, do you now?” he asked.

 

“Yes, used to be a hobby of mine.”

 

Fudge pulled out the newspaper again. “I suppose you can have it. Not anything very interesting in there today.”

 

Fudge handed him the newspaper, and Sirius forced himself not to take it from him too eagerly. He sat down, vaguely noticing that the Dementor had just glided back to Sirius’ cell. He should have felt the weight of his memories threatening to overcome him again, but he didn’t. The rat in the picture pushed everything else out of his mind.

 

It definitely was Wormtail in the picture, Sirius was absolutely sure of it.  It had the same eyes, the same snout. It had a toe missing. Sirius grinned.  Hiding for you is over, now, Peter. Come out come out wherever you are. You won’t come out of course, the coward that you are, but I’ll get you anyway.

 

But first he needed to know where to look. Well, wherever that boy in the picture is, you’ll be there too. You’ve been that boy’s pet, have you? I feel sorry for the boy…. Sirius took his eyes from the picture for the first time to try to find out anything about the family that could tell him where Peter was. The more information he could find, the easier and quicker it would be to find him. If nothing else, though, at least he could start his search in Egypt. He would go to every corner of the earth if need be, so long as he could get his hands on the rat.

 

He quickly read through the article that went along with the picture, but he didn’t find much at first. The very last paragraph gave him all the information he needed to know, however: “The Weasley family will be spending a month in Egypt, returning for the start of the new school year at Hogwarts, which five of the Weasely children currently attend.”

 

A hungry grin appeared on Sirius’ wasted face. Hogwarts. He’s at Hogwarts. You could have picked no worse place to hide, Peter. I know the school better than even the founders did, even after all these years away from it, and you never did have a good memory. His grin widened.

 

But then something hit him. He was surprised that it had taken him this long to put two and two together. Peter was at Hogwarts. By this time, Harry must be at Hogwarts, too. That meant that for nearly ten months of the year, Peter had the potential to harm Harry without anyone having the slightest suspicion that there was a murderer at the school. Sirius knew that Peter would kill Harry, or anyone else for that matter, in the blink of an eye if he thought that he would get something out of it.

 

All the more reason to kill Peter, then, all the more reason to get out of here as quickly as I can.  He figured that there was little over a month until term started at Hogwarts. That should give him just enough time to escape and get to Hogwarts.

 

He didn’t know quite how he would manage to escape from the fortress without being caught. He’d have to bypass all the Dementors without them sensing him, and then there was the problem of actually getting out of Azkaban. Being so long ago, he didn’t remember exactly where the entrance was. And after that was the ocean. He knew neither how far he would have to swim nor how turbulent the waters would be. Had he been in his right mind, all of this would have overwhelmed him. But in the end, it didn’t really matter. He didn’t care what obstacle came in his path, even if it was Voldemort himself; he would find Peter, no matter what. Find him and kill him.

 

He spent the rest of the day thinking about Peter. And when at night as he lay on the cold floor, he still obsessed over the killing of the rat. Some time later, he fell to sleep, thinking of revenge, muttering triumphantly under his breath all the while, “He’s at Hogwarts….”

 

*     *     *

 

Tonight was the night. It had been a week since Sirius had first seen Peter in the newspaper. Tonight it would be a full moon, giving him better light by which to see, whilst giving no advantage to the sightless Dementors. In an hour or so, the Dementors would bring him his dinner, and then he would be able to sneak through the open door, escaping to freedom.

 

After all the years he had waited in Azkaban, an hour more to wait shouldn’t seem like much, but to Sirius, it seemed to take an eternity to pass. The blood red sun moved farther beneath the earth as the minutes passed, making his cell ever gloomier. He spent the whole time staring at the picture of Peter, grinning at the thought of confronting him once more. This time, though, Sirius wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of making Peter pay.

 

Sirius became aware of a Dementor coming then, so he quickly put the newspaper page into his pocket and transformed into Padfoot. It was odd how he could sense Dementors now, while their effects on him were almost completely blunted. He had a purpose now, a purpose to hunt and to destroy. The Dementors had taken much from him, but they could not take that.

 

Sirius heard the locks on the cell door clicking open, and he stood up, getting ready to leave as soon as the moment was right. The door slowly opened, creaking the whole time. The Dementor glided in and began to set down a small loaf of bread and a glass of water with its gray, scabbed hands. Sirius would have liked to have snatched the bread, no matter how hard and stale it might be, but he didn’t want to push his luck any more than he had to.

 

Sirius slinked out of the door, just barely being able to get past the Dementor who had brought his food without touching it. He saw the Dementor that was standing guard at his cell turn in his direction, although it was clear to him that the Dementor didn’t understand what it was sensing. Sirius was thankful for this, and quickly trotted around the corner and down the corridors.

 

He went through a maze of corridors in his efforts to find a way out. He would pass the other prisoners sometimes, but he wasn’t really worried about them; the prisoners were much too preoccupied with themselves, muttering or screaming or in some kind of stupor-like sleep. But even if they did see him, they would most likely think that they were hallucinating or that he was the infamous Grim bringing to them sweet death.

 

The staleness of the place began to lessen, and Sirius knew that a way out must be ahead. After turning a few more corners he saw a barred door that was letting in the light of the moon and the roaring of the ocean. The door was not dissimilar to the one that had been his cell door, except for the fact that the bars weren’t quite so close together on this one.

 

When he arrived at the door, he stopped and looked at it. He stood on his hind legs, trying to turn the doorknob. It seemed to be locked, however, and he couldn’t open it.

 

He stared at the door for a moment, half thinking if he looked at it long enough, it would open of its own accord. He studied the bars and wondered if he could fit through them. Sirius guessed that he was thin enough to fit, but he didn’t know for sure. If he got stuck in the bars, he was almost guaranteed of a kiss from a Dementor as soon as one found him there. He decided, though, that his need of quickly getting out of Azkaban outweighed the risk; if he didn’t get out of the fortress soon, the Dementors would find him anyway, and he wasn’t sure if he would be able to find another exit before they found him.

 

Sirius slowly tried to slide himself through the bars. He soon realized that it was easier than he thought it would be. He became conscious of what implications that had for his health, but then quickly tossed those thoughts aside.

 

He walked towards the rocky beach, seeing the sky above him for the first time in twelve years. He barely saw it, though. He was concentrating too much on escaping and finding Peter to care. He knew that most people would have marveled at nature after being locked in Azkaban for so long, but he had much more important things to do.

 

He worked his way through the myriad of rocks that made up the beach, trying to find a place where he could enter the water without getting beaten to pieces between the waves and rocks first. He eventually found a place where it was relatively safe, and went into the cold water.

 

For how long he swam, he didn’t know. He swam steadily along, but it wasn’t until an hour or two before dawn that he could see the shore. He had become tired long before that, but he forced himself to keep going. Every time he had the thought of giving himself up to the waves, the picture of Peter in the newspaper instantly blazed before his eyes. Sometimes all that kept him afloat was his burning desire to take revenge on his once friend.

 

He was almost there now, perhaps only a quarter of a mile away. He kept telling himself that he was almost there, which was certainly a good thing; he knew that his legs, which had partially atrophied from years of disuse, were about to give out.

 

He stumbled onto the shore, feeling the sand under his paws as he staggered along. There was a small woods not too far away, and he walked towards it, thankful for a place where he could collapse without having to be in the open. He staggered into the woods, walking as far as he could until his body told him that enough was enough. He fell onto the ground and slipped into unconsciousness.

 

*     *     *

 

He woke up dazedly a good deal later; he was surprised that he didn’t hear his body audibly groan in protest when he got onto his paws, but his body would just have to deal with it. He didn’t have time to rest; he had to find Peter.

 

He heard a stream nearby, and his parched mouth reminded him that there were some necessary things that he had to take care of. He found the stream, and eagerly lapped up the water. He then caught a couple of fish at the urgings of his stomach.

 

But then he set off in a generally northern direction. He wasn’t quite sure where he was, but he knew well enough that Hogwarts was to the north. He had been walking along for a quarter of an hour when the thought occurred to him that he should check on Harry first. He would love to be able to talk to his godson, but Sirius knew that there was no chance of that happening. He could at least, though, check on Harry to make sure that he was well and safe before he set out on his hunt for Peter.

 

*     *     *

 

He walked down the alleyways of Little Whinging, trying to dredge up very old memories so that he could at least have a vague idea of where he was going. It also helped that he had his nose to go by; even if it had been twelve years since he had last seen Harry, dogs never forgot the scents of those that were dearest to them.

 

But just then, he caught the scent of Harry in the air. Sirius stopped walking, slightly puzzled. The scent didn’t seem to be coming from one of the nearby houses, but rather from the street. But what would Harry be doing out at this time of night? And why was there the bitter smell of anger woven in with his godson’s scent?

 

He walked down the alleyway towards the street, seeing if he could find Harry. He didn’t want to come out of the alleyway too far, though, not wanting to be seen. He took a few more steps and by the faint light of the moon and the Muggle lampposts, he could make out a boy sitting on a garden wall, his face bowed down. Harry…?

 

The boy got up off the garden wall and walked to a trunk that Sirius hadn’t noticed before. The lamplight shone more clearly on the boy after he got up, and Sirius’ heart almost stopped. Harry had always looked so much like his father, but Sirius wasn’t quite prepared to see the exact image of his best friend again. That was twice in two weeks now that he had seen faces from his past. Oh, how the past could haunt a person.

 

Sirius had taken a few involuntary steps forward as Harry rummaged through his trunk. Sirius would have liked nothing more than to have run up to his godson, hug him, and then give him a great many apologies for what he had done to him and not being able to be there for him. He knew he couldn’t do that, though. Even if Harry hadn’t known that he was an escaped convict (as he was quite sure that his escape would have been widely publicized by this time), he knew that his appearance, if nothing else, would have Harry pointing his wand at him in seconds.

 

Harry suddenly stood up and looked cautiously around. But seconds later, Harry went back to rummaging through his trunk. Sirius wondered if Harry had heard him and started to back up into the alleyway. Then Harry looked up again, and Sirius froze. His godson held up his wand and muttered, “Lumos.” Sirius saw him stiffen, as Harry looked straight at him. Sirius slowly started to back into the alleyway once more as Harry backed away as well.

 

But then his godson tripped over his trunk and went sprawling into the gutter. Sirius again repressed the urge to run out to him when there was a sudden BANG. Sirius looked around to see where the noise had come from, fearing the worst. But then he saw the triple-decker Knight Bus careening down the street, and his eyes widened – Harry was directly in the path of the bus.

 

But at the last second, Harry seemed to realize the danger that he was in and quickly rolled away.

 

Sirius sighed in relief, but the next second, he became sickened with himself. He had almost killed Harry, just like he had killed Lily and James. If Harry hadn’t gotten out of the way in the nick of time, he would have been crushed by the Knight Bus. The deaths of Lily and James hung heavily over him still, but if he had killed Harry just then too, there would have been no way that he could have lived with himself. He had made too many mistakes as it was, he couldn’t afford to make anymore.

 

But then Sirius became aware of someone talking and he was forced out of his thoughts. “Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard,” said the cheery voice, which Sirius assumed belonged to the conductor. At this point, Sirius realized that the lights of the giant bus were filling his alleyway, and he quickly darted behind some bins lest he be spotted again. “Just stick out you wand hand,” the man continued, “step on board, and we can take you anywhere you want to go. My name is Stan Shunpike and I will be your conductor this eve-”

 

Stan suddenly fell silent, and Sirius could smell amusement from the man. “What were you doin’ down there?” he asked.

 

Sirius looked through a couple of the bins, seeing a rather perplexed Harry. “Fell over,” his godson said shortly to the conductor, whom Sirius couldn’t see from his hiding place.

 

Stan sniggered. “Choo fell over for?”

 

“I didn’t do it on purpose,” Harry said indignantly, and then, as though reminded of why he fell over, he turned to look at the alleyway Sirius was in.

 

“Choo lookin’ at?” asked Stan, now curious as well as amused.

 

“There was a big black thing,” said Harry slowly, pointing to where Sirius had been just moments ago, “Like a dog…but massive….”

 

Sirius shook his shaggy head. He knew he had frightened Harry, and that was the last thing he wanted to do. So many mistakes….

 

Silence reigned for a while, but then the conductor said, “Woss that on your ‘ead?”

 

“Nothing,” said Harry much too quickly. Sirius knew that there was something there, though. He could vividly remember holding Harry in the remains of his best friend’s house and seeing the lightning bolt scar that had marred the smoothness of the baby’s skin.

 

“Woss your name?” said Stan.

 

“Neville Longbottom,” said Harry, once again much too quickly. Sirius silently laughed. You’re Neville now are you Harry? Why the change of name? Well, you may have fooled the conductor, but you look too much like James to fool me.

 

“So – so this bus, did you say it goes anywhere?” Harry asked, changing the subject. Sirius sighed, wondering how much else Harry didn’t know about their world. If Sirius had done just one thing differently…

 

“Yep,” said Stan, “anywhere you like, long’s it’s on land. Can’t do nuffink underwater. ‘Ere, you did flag us down, dincha? Stuck out your wand ‘and, dincha?”

 

“Yes,” his godson said. “Listen, how much would it be to get to London?”

 

“Eleven sickles, 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.”

 

Sirius watched as Harry went back to his trunk and rummaged around again. He heard the clinking of coins as Harry gave Stan some gold. Harry then came back into view, along with the conductor, and together they lifted his godson’s trunk and disappeared again. Sirius heard them clambering onto the bus; for a few moments, things were silent except for a couple of inaudible voices coming from inside the bus.

 

Then there was another BANG, and Sirius knew that the Knight Bus, and Harry, had left. At least now Sirius knew that his godson was safe for the moment.

 

He emerged from his hiding place from behind the bins and began his journey towards Hogwarts. You’ve had twelve years of borrowed time Peter, but I’m not going to let you have anymore. You better enjoy what time you have left, you filthy rat.

 

He would be damned before he let Peter get away with what he had done to Lily and James and Harry. I’m so sorry, Harry. I haven’t forgotten my promised to you, though. As soon as I take care of Peter, I’ll be back for you. I know I can never fully make things up to you, but I will never stop trying to do so.

 

It was almost mournfully silent as Sirius walked off into the night.

 

//
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