The Sugar Quill
Author: Miss Sophia  Story: Yellow  Chapter: 1. Starry Night
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: I do not lay claim to any of JKR's beautiful creations. This is just my way of celebrating them.

Author's Note: I would like to thank my brilliant beta-readers, Birgit and HL, who have been more amazing than I had thought possible. The chapter header lyrics are from "Yellow," by Coldplay.

Yellow

Chapter 1: Starry Night

Look at the stars
Look how they shine for you
And everything you do
Yeah they were all yellow

The evening sky was a deep bottle blue, and although night had not completely fallen, its canopy was already punctured by bright pinpricks of light, sharp and yellow. The large black dog curled up and hidden in the bushes on the side of number four, Privet Drive, inhaled deeply, his head resting on his mammoth black paws. The air had a mild fragrance of juniper, light and refreshing. A silence hung over the neatly trimmed lawns; all of the residents of the neighbourhood were likely gathered around their dinner tables, reclining comfortably in their chairs, patting stomachs that had been filled beyond the brim. The dog exhaled in a deep sigh, the breath lightly ruffling his jowls. His stomach clenched in hungry protest, and he swallowed heavily, lifting his shaggy head slightly only to put it back down on his paws.

One of his paw pads was still bleeding from the long journey to Little Whinging. It had taken him all night to reach land. When he had finally dragged himself onto the rocky shore, freezing and soaked, he had wanted simply to collapse onto the ground and pass out. But the thought of his pursuers—their rotting, decayed claws, and worse, their putrid, rattling breath and the terrifying chill that had steadily been ripping away pieces of his soul for twelve long years—kept his legs in motion, one paw in front of the other.

As he heaved his exhausted, emaciated body forward, his best friend's face pushed its way to the front of his mind, eyes wide open and lips parted slightly, cold and lifeless, wiped clean of its usual laugh lines and mischievous expression. The great black dog let out a series of shrill whimpers and quickened his pace even more, his shaggy black coat, matted, tangled, and caked with grime, dripping rivulets of seawater onto the rough gravel.

He had walked like that for a week, stopping only to sleep for short spells in overgrown fields and garbage piles, recovering just enough energy to keep going. He quieted his stomach with orange peels, moldy bread, rotting stew bones, and anything else he could scrounge up without much effort. Whenever his resolve began to flag, James's lifeless face would flash before his weary eyes, bringing them back into focus. When hunger and weakness caused the knees of his front legs to buckle, threatening to pitch him forward onto the ground, he would sometimes see another face, this one round around the edges, but pointy and rodentlike in the middle, with a triumphant gleam in the eyes. And somewhere from the back of his mind, a harsh, strangled voice echoed repeatedly: "Lily and James, Sirius! How could you?...How could you?...How could you?" A wave of rage would then fill his mind; his head would buzz as blood surged into it from his chest, and from the deepest part of his damaged soul, he would dredge up his last bit of strength to straighten his legs and keep going.

Nestled in the bushes, the dog licked the oozing blood from the cut paw and then lifted his head, ears perked up to catch the slightest hint of motion. He had been lying in wait since the morning, lingering patiently for just one glimpse of his godson—the only remnant of his best friend, who was closer to him than a brother. He had a longer journey back north lying ahead of him, a journey that would likely end in his own death—or maybe something even worse—and so this would probably be the last time he would get to see James's baby—the last precious thing he had in this world.

Only blurred memories remained of the last time he had seen little Harry. The smoldering wreckage...the eerie quiet...large grizzly Hagrid cupping the toddler in his massive hands, blood pouring from a jagged cut in the baby's forehead. This baby, more precious than any child of his own could have been—Sirius had longed to clasp him to his chest and never let go; he just wanted to cradle his godson and howl until he collapsed: "I'm so sorry, James, I'm so sorry. I will take care of Harry, James. I will love him as much as I loved you, and I will keep him safe. It's the least I can do. I'm so sorry, James. I'm so sorry, Harry." But his wild, desperate pleas to keep the child fell on deaf ears, and in the end Hagrid took the baby...and thereafter he had seen the child only in his own nightmares, repeating over and over in James's voice, "You betrayed our friendship, Sirius. You betrayed me."

Loud shouts suddenly penetrated the quiet evening, yanking the dog's attention from his tortured reverie. The shouts were coming from number four: a booming male rumble, then a boy's yell (could that be Harry?), and finally a woman's voice, shrill and earthy. Suddenly, the woman fell silent, and the dog could hear a faint hissing noise, accompanied a few moments later by what sounded like several small objects clattering to the floor, until—

"MARGE!"

The man's voice rang out again, followed by some sharp popping noises and then frantic barking from inside the house. The black dog jumped to his feet and slowly backed further into the bushes. He could not risk being seen, especially by the bulldog inside the house. If he were to be discovered or attacked, he would be returned to that cold fortress (that is, if he were lucky enough to make it back there alive and sane), and he would once again have failed to protect James's son, his godson.

More clattering, although the objects sounded heavier this time, and more yelling. Suddenly, the front door banged open, and it sounded like something large was being dragged across the doorframe. Then the door slammed shut again, and all the dog could hear were muffled shouts from inside the house. He had retreated so far into the bush that he no longer had a clear line of sight to the front lawn, but his heart began to pound in anticipation. Could this be Harry, James's son, his godson? His mouth felt dry. He had never been so nervous in his entire life.

The heavy object was now being dragged over the front lawn; the dog could hear its bulk ripping through the well-tended grass. He longed to poke his head out of the bush to have a look, to see if this was indeed his godson, but he could not risk it yet. This neighbourhood was not the type that stray dogs would normally be found in, especially giant shaggy dogs with blood-caked paws and filthy, matted fur. No, he must hold back and let the unseen figure get a little further out before he could leave the security of the bush to inspect.

A dry, scraping sound, accompanied by dull footsteps, indicated that the object had found its way onto the narrow cement walkway that ran along the otherwise quiet street. The large dog waited until the footsteps and dragging noise faded away slightly before he finally rose and stepped softly out of the bush.

The sky was now completely dark, save for a scattering of bright stars. The streetlights shone dimly onto the empty road, illuminating a short, skinny silhouette fifty feet ahead of where the dog was standing. This had to be him; it had to be Harry. The dog's heart pounded in his massive chest; he opened his mouth and panted silently in quick, short bursts. It was all he could do to keep from letting out what he knew would be a piercing yelp.

The silhouette moved further into the distance, dragging what appeared to be a large trunk in one hand while cradling a birdcage of sorts in the other. The figure—it must be Harry, for his build and stature were remarkably like James's (the dog swallowed hard and then continued to pant)—was walking rather quickly for someone carrying so much baggage. The dog began to trot forward, so that the distance between him and the boy closed slightly.

The dog continued to follow the boy for several blocks. From the earlier commotion in the house and the boy's rapid pace, the dog surmised that some sort of row had taken place and the boy either had been kicked out or was running away. Out of nowhere, a shrill whine wrenched its way from somewhere deep in the dog's chest. The dog's eyes widened in fear, and he stopped momentarily, terrified that the boy had heard him...but the trunk was making a lot of noise as it scraped across the ground, and the boy seemed oblivious to his cry.

He had met the boy's aunt before, though not as the large black dog, of course, but in his normal, human form—as Sirius Black. It was the middle of his seventh year at Hogwarts, a time when, except for his troubles with his own family, he had felt like he was on top of the world. The term that had just ended had been filled with fun and adventure: late nights swigging bottles of butterbeer he and James had nicked from the Hogwarts kitchen while Peter, as Wormtail (the dog's stomach seized up again at this thought), distracted the house-elves; sneaking into the girls' dormitory with James under James's ever-useful Invisibility Cloak (Sirius had figured out how to disable the boy-repelling Officiens Pueris Charm towards the end of their fourth year) and holding back hysterical laughter as the girls noticed the scent of the Dungbombs James had released, at first pretending to act proper and dignified as they tried to ignore the stench, and then shrieking for Professor McGonagall to come and collect Peeves from wherever he must be hiding; and, of course, prowling the Hogwarts grounds and Hogsmeade with Prongs, Moony, and yes, Wormtail, and recording newly found routes and passages on the Marauder's Map the next day.

And although the term had ended, Sirius was, for once, filled with joy and excitement rather than dread, for this Christmas he would be staying with James; Mr. and Mrs. Potter had been kind enough to open their home to him as a second son last summer when they found out that his own family was on the verge of disowning him. (And disown him they did; his summer with the Potters was the last straw. By the time he had left Hogwarts the next June, Sirius's name had been burned off the Black family tree.) So instead of seeing his own mother's sour gaze as the train pulled up to platform nine and three-quarters at King's Cross station, he saw the Potters' faces, lightly wrinkled, yet jovial, echoing parts of James's smile in their own wide grins.

And yet there was a sour face waiting on the platform, but it belonged to a thin teenage girl, perhaps a couple of years younger than him, standing next to a middle-aged couple dressed in Muggle clothes. The couple was smiling and looked rather excited; the girl, on the other hand, had her lips pursed, as if she had just eaten a lemon, and she was scowling, as if platform nine and three-quarters was the last place she wanted to be. Before Sirius could turn to James and remark snidely about how the girl must be the top student in "Mrs. Black's Training Programme for Hags," the train had stopped and everyone, including James, was pulling his or her belongings off the luggage racks and exiting the train. Sirius did the same, following James and his girlfriend Lily down the steps of the train and onto the platform.

Mr. and Mrs. Potter immediately rushed over to greet them, and Mrs. Potter even gave Sirius a big hug, embarrassing him slightly. Mr. Potter just shook Sirius's hand and welcomed him home. Then, in an uncharacteristically shy manner, James introduced his parents to Lily, whom they greeted with their usual warmth and friendliness. Sirius could not help but contrast their hospitality with the way his own parents would likely have reacted had he brought home a Muggle-born girlfriend. At best, his mother would have turned her nose up and sniffed a curt "Hello," and his father would have just stared the girl down silently with his cold, grey eyes. More likely, though, both of his parents would have spat curses at her, vile words to let her know that she was not welcome in their lives and near their son.

Then James turned to Sirius and whispered, "Now I've got to meet her folks. Care to join us, Padfoot?" James was trying to sound casual, but Sirius could tell that he was a bit anxious; the corners of James's mouth were twitching ever so slightly, and for once he was actually trying to flatten his hair a bit.

"Of course, mate. I would never miss the opportunity to see my best friend have his ears boxed by his lady love's parents," Sirius replied, grinning. James stopped flattening his hair to punch Sirius in the arm, glaring at him in jest.

"You can watch the spectacle, Padfoot, but be gentle. Remember, they're Muggles. Don't scare them away!" James retorted.

"What do you take me for, Prongs, a Black? Oh wait, I haven't been ex-communicated from the Black clan—at least not yet. Well, in that case, I will just have to place a Flipper Fingers hex on them the moment they get cheeky with you. As my loving mother has always said—"

But Sirius cut himself off, for Lily had grabbed James's hand and was already pulling James in the direction of the Muggle couple Sirius had spotted from the train. Sirius trotted along behind them.

When they reached the couple, both parents immediately embraced Lily, while the sour-faced girl hung back, scowling.

"Mum, Dad, um, this is, ah, my—um, well, this is James Potter," Lily stammered, blushing. "And this is his—er, our friend, Sirius Black."

"Thanks for introducing me to your boyfriends, Lily. Are these the only two, or are there more? You're the most popular girl in—what's it called, HAGwarts Wizarding School—and you've got only two boyfriends? Not up to your usual standard, are you?" The sour-faced girl had stepped forward. Her thin face was sculpted into a glare that was pointed directly at Lily.

"Oh, sorry. Um, this is Petunia. My sister," Lily said mildly. Sirius was now kind of glad that he had not made that snide remark about the girl to James when they were still on the train. James was already a bit nervous, and he didn't need to hear his best friend insult his girlfriend's sister. Of course, he would not drop the matter altogether; the comparison between his mother and Lily's sister was too apt and too funny not to repeat to James. But he would wait until they got to the Potters' to bring it up.

At the time, Petunia's sneer and sour attitude seemed quite hilarious and throughout the holidays and rest of the school year provided much fodder for Sirius to tease James about. But now, as the black dog followed James's son through the streets of Little Whinging, they ripped further at Sirius's aching heart. The comparison between his own mother and Lily's sister, Harry's aunt, was no longer funny, for Sirius knew what it was like to grow up with a woman like that, bitter, angry, and devoid of love. And it was all Sirius's fault that Harry had grown up with nasty, sour Petunia and not smiling, happy Lily. Worse, he couldn't even imagine what kind of a lout would marry a woman like Petunia.

Poor Harry. If only he, Sirius, had not been so stupid, so gullible. Even if he were to manage to complete his mission alive—to kill Peter and avoid recapture and (the dog suddenly shivered) a Dementor's kiss—he did not think he could ever face Harry. No, he could not do it, even if, owing to some sort of miracle, he could prove his innocence and clear his name. He had taken Harry's parents away and ruined Harry's childhood by forcing him to live with those horrible Muggles. He was Harry's godfather. He was supposed to have taken care of Harry should anything happen to James and Lily. He had broken all of his promises to his best friend. He did not protect James, and he did not protect James's son. He deserved to waste away in Azkaban. Maybe he even deserved to die.

But Peter also deserves to die. This thought snapped the dog's attention from his own thoughts to the young boy in front of him, who had finally stopped to rest on a low wall in front of a house. The dog crept forward slowly. His heart was pounding again; if he could just get a closer look...just one clear look at his godson, at James's boy....

The boy seemed to be staying put for a while, so the black dog turned up the front lawn of number ten, Magnolia Crescent, and slowly continued to draw nearer to him. The boy was facing the street, so he would not see the dog approaching from behind. Luckily, number two, which the boy was sitting in front of, did not have any lights on, inside or outside, so the dog settled himself between it and the fence separating it from the garage of number four.

Now he had a very close view of the boy from the back, and he could finally tell for sure that the boy was indeed his godson. He had to be, for, at least from the back, he looked just like James. It was all the dog could do to keep from lifting his head and howling in agony. He looked just like James. He had unruly black hair and a rather scrawny build for his age—and exactly how old was he? The dog paused for a moment, lightly tapping one paw on the ground. Thirteen. Harry was thirteen. Thirteen birthdays and, he, Sirius, had not been there for twelve of them.

Suddenly, the boy got up and turned around. As he walked around his trunk, his face was bathed in a yellow glow from the streetlight above him, and Sirius felt as if he were looking into James's face.

For a moment, the dog wanted nothing more than to bound up to the boy, almost certain he would see James's impish smile appear on his face. He wanted to transform into his human shape and embrace James and shout, "Where have you been? Why did you leave me, mate?" He felt hysterical. He felt elated. He wanted to lose control, to fall to his knees in front of James and explain what happened, to beg for James's forgiveness, to sob until he passed out.

The boy's back was now facing Sirius as he bent over to riffle through the items in his trunk. Then, without warning, the boy straightened up and looked over in Sirius's direction. The dog stood as still as he possibly could, not breathing. He had to keep reminding himself that this was not James. If he were to run forward and greet the boy, as he was aching to do, he might blow his cover. The boy might scream. The Dementors would arrive. And he would have failed Harry, and James, again. A fierce protective urge overwhelmed his senses. Regardless of what had happened twelve years ago, he was still Harry's godfather, and he must guard Harry and keep him safe, no matter the cost. And that meant he must keep his cover so that he could kill Peter.

Harry bent back down towards the trunk, but almost instantly straightened up again, his back still to Sirius. Harry then turned his head to face Sirius once more. The large dog stayed put in the dark alleyway. Although Harry could not see him—Harry's eyes were rapidly searching the area, not fixing on anything in particular—he had the clearest view of Harry yet, the boy's face once again awash in a golden glow.

He was beautiful. Like James, he had messy black hair, rumpled as if he had just got off his broomstick after a particularly heated game of Quidditch. Like James, he wore glasses, but they framed vivid green eyes—clearly inherited from Lily; Sirius could recognise them immediately. And on his forehead—there it was, a jagged scar where Sirius had last seen blood pouring from. He was the most precious thing in the world, standing there, illuminated by the yellow light from above.

"Lumos." His godson had spoken, and then a brilliant white light lit up the alleyway, momentarily blinding the dog. He froze in his place; Harry had surely seen him. Then, just as suddenly, the light disappeared, and the black dog was once again clothed in darkness, a purple afterimage of Harry's silhouette still hovering before his eyes. Harry himself had disappeared, however, and the dog heard a soft "oof!" and then a dry clattering noise.

Before he could process what had happened, a deafening "BANG" and a series of screeches pierced the quiet night, and he was blinded for a second time by a dazzling flash of light.

This was it. He had seen his godson (not for the last time, his heart ached, please let me see him again), and he had to leave—now. He could not risk Harry—or anyone else—coming after him. The dog turned around and leaped halfway across the backyard of number two, Magnolia Crescent, before he stopped short—what if something had happened to Harry?—and turned around to see what had caused the racket.

In the street in front of where Harry had been standing a moment before was a large, triple-decker purple bus—the Knight Bus. Harry must have summoned it.

The dog tilted his head to listen for a moment, hidden in the shadows of a large hydrangea bush. Was Harry OK? The dog could hear a young man's voice reciting something loudly. A pause, and then—yes, Harry had responded. He was OK. And Sirius would make sure that things stayed that way.

The giant black dog bounded off into the starry night.

//
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