The Sugar Quill
Author: Frivolous Pink  Story: He's at Hogwarts  Chapter: Default
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He’s at Hogwarts, and all the stars are out, reflected in the black ripples of the lake

He’s at Hogwarts, and all the stars are out, reflected in the black ripples of the lake.  Sirius can’t sleep. 

The lake is the Marauders’ favorite spot for a good mope, and as such, it has seen particularly heavy use this year.  James mopes about Lily.  Remus mopes about Sirius’s stupid prank.  Sirius mopes even more than Remus does about that stupid prank Sirius had to go and pull because he has no brains—none—at all.   Even Peter apparently has mysterious problems of his own because here he is taking up all the best moping space when Sirius is the one in desperate need of it.

            Sirius doesn’t want to talk to Peter because Sirius is incapable of doing so these days without teasing him, and the last thing Sirius wants right now is to hurt one of his friends.  He wishes he wasn’t so mean, turns around quietly so he won’t disturb Peter, and heads back to the castle.  Then Sirius trips in the mud and falls over with a pitiful yelp. 

            “Sirius?” says Peter.

            “Ha,” says Sirius, hauling himself to his feet and shaking mud out of his hair.  “Scared you.”

            “Good one, yeah,” Peter says generously.  “So what are you doing out?”

            Sirius squelches a rather unnerving urge to explain how sad he’s feeling and says, “Dunno,” instead.  He looks down at his feet and kicks something that isn’t there.  “What about you?” 

            Peter shrugs.  “Dunno.”  They stand in awkward silence.  “Well, goodnight,” Peter says and starts for the castle.

“Oi, Peter!  Watch out for--” Sirius is about to say vampires or hinkypunks but stops himself just in time.  Why can’t he be nice to people like Remus is or James can be when Lily makes him? 

The conversation lurches in an alarmingly sentimental direction as he says, “Er, Peter.  Why is Remus still angry with me even though he says he isn’t?”

            Peter turns to face Sirius slowly, as if buying time.  “It’s okay, Sirius.  It was just a joke.”

            Sirius hadn’t expected Peter to understand anyway.  Wormtail’s heart is in the right place, but he’s too thick to notice that Remus flinches now whenever Sirius mentions the “furry little problem,” or how depressed Sirius was today when he got the silliest love letter ever (“Please.  Can’t we snog?  Seriously, write Black soon.”), and Remus failed to so much as snort.  Sirius sighs and gives his invisible target another kick.

            “He doesn’t trust me,” Sirius says.  Poor Peter looks as if he has no idea what Sirius is talking about but is too timid to say so.  “Oh, never mind,” says Sirius, trying not to sound annoyed. 

            Peter starts to leave again but turns around once he’s almost out of earshot. “He’s forgiven you, Padfoot,” he says, without a trace of his usual nervous need to please.

            “Really?”  Sirius calls out hopefully. 

“But it’s hard to trust someone,” Peter says in a kind voice, “who doesn’t treat you like an equal.”

            Peter returns to the castle as Sirius waves the goodnight he can’t quite say aloud.  He looks down at his reflection in the starry lake, jumps in, and swims until he’s tired.

Sirius considers Transforming. 

It’s his favorite way to make Harry stop crying.  Harry has always liked Padfoot. After a particularly satisfying yank on Padfoot’s ear, Harry even gurgled his first little laugh, causing Lily to very nearly lose her mind with delight and James to do so unreservedly.

            Yes.  He is a mad brilliant godfather, and he will stop the baby’s heartrending cries in the instant it takes to Transform, earning slobbery caresses from said baby and tears of gratitude from his parents once they show up.

The sight of Lily lying trapped in the rubble makes Sirius decide to stay human.  Sirius has to step over Lily to do it—he’ll help her up in a minute, she’d have his head if he didn’t check on Harry first--but he rushes to Hagrid’s side and looks down at little Harry.  Harry recognizes his godfather, makes a vague attempt at pronouncing his name, and extends a tiny hand in his direction.  Hagrid brushes some ash from Harry’s forehead to reveal a nasty gash. 

            “Disinfectum.”  Sirius remembers to cast a diluted version of the spell just like it said to in Lily’s copy of Happy Babies, Healthy Wizards.   

“There, that’s better, isn’ it?” Hagrid says, giving Harry an awkward bounce.

            Sirius opens his mouth to tell Hagrid they’ve got to help Lily and James out of the ruins.  He ends up saying, “Give Harry to me, Hagrid, I’m his godfather,” instead.

            Hagrid shakes his head.  “I’m sorry.”

            “I’ll look after him.”

            “I know yeh would, Sirius.  Yer a mad brillian’ godfather, everyone knows tha’.”  And Hagrid is saying something soothing about how Dumbledore’s got a plan, Muggles in Surrey, everything’s going to be safer now that You-Know-Who is gone, but Sirius is laughing uncontrollably because what Hagrid doesn’t know is that Harry’s face has just contorted in exactly the grimace that means he’s about to spit up.  The Little Bubotuber, Remus called it once.

            Harry spits up.  Hagrid is horrified. 

Sirius helps Hagrid charm away the spit-up.  “Maybe,” Sirius says, hiccupping from his laughing jag as he tucks Harry’s blanket snugly into the neck of his baby-shirt, “when this is all over, he can come live with me.”

“Maybe,” Hagrid says gently.

“Maybe if the Muggles don’t want him.”  Sirius feels the possibility is

unlikely.  Who wouldn’t want Harry?  He’s the coolest baby ever—he can even put his feet in his mouth.

Hagrid gives a heavy sigh, and Harry snuggles in for a nap.  Unable to meet Hagrid’s eyes, Sirius looks away and sees James’s glasses crushed in with the rubble.  Then he sees the body. 

“Take the bike,” Sirius says hoarsely.  “You should probably get going.” 

“Right,” says Hagrid.  He chucks Harry in the chin and says with forced heartiness, “Yer godfather is letting yeh borrow his motorbike, Harry.  You’ll like tha’!”  

“Keep it.  I don’t need it anymore.”  Sirius watches the engine, charmed to emit iridescent silver smoke stars, kick in, then he watches the headlights get smaller and smaller as Hagrid, his godson, and his very favorite thing in the world, his breathtakingly illegal motorbike, disappear into the night sky.

            Sirius turns away from the ruins and Disapparates.

“I would have died for you,” he calls into the deserted side street. 

He can hear footsteps, but he has to peer into the darkness for a moment before he sees Peter.  They are alone, Sirius thinks, and the chase is over.

Peter turns to face Sirius, backing out of the alley and towards the busy Muggle street nearby, without meeting his eyes.

“You still might,” Peter replies with a chuckle.  “Resist arrest, Sirius.  You’re the type.” 

Sirius has no idea what Peter is talking about.  He draws his wand.  “We trusted you.”

“No,” Peter says quietly, “you underestimated me.”  They are no longer in the dark quiet of the alley.  Peter has drawn them out into the Muggle crowd.  He gives Sirius an ironic grin before starting to cry and shouting, “Lily and James, Sirius!  How could you?”

The double accusation is enough to make Sirius lower his wand in shock. He tries to steady himself, thinks of Harry flying away to safety, of Remus, wherever he is, but, Sirius hopes, also headed for safety.  He feels terribly sad when he thinks of Remus, who, he realizes, is about to become the last surviving Marauder. 

He and Peter are going to kill each other. 

The flash of an astonishingly powerful curse makes him think they have, but then he catches sight of a rat scurrying into the gutter.  Peter’s parting words were meant, not to mock Sirius’s feelings of guilt over the murder of James and Lily, but to frame him for it.  Peter has escaped, Sirius realizes, and he starts to laugh like a maniac.

Sirius stopped the influx of memory by sheer force of will.  He was shaking so hard he made the newspaper rustle audibly.  Not only had Peter not died the night he was supposed to, he’d ended up a sleeping rat perched on a schoolboy’s shoulder.  He’s at Hogwarts.

Sirius loped to the shore’s edge, wiping away his pawprints behind him with his tail.  He peered down into the steel gray surface of the North Sea and saw the Grim staring back at him.  Padfoot no longer had the shaggy, playful look of an overgrown puppy.  Azkaban had turned him into the kind of fire-eyed monster that haunts children’s stories and, some people believe, augurs the death of anyone who sees it. 

Sirius closed his eyes, unsettled by his first glimpse of himself in twelve years, and jumped in.

He traveled hard until he reached Surrey, the first stop of his journey and the part of it he was most looking forward to.  Sirius couldn’t wait to see Harry, all grown up by now, with Prongsish hair and perhaps even glasses of his own.  The thought made Sirius smile even in his dog form.

It was a chilly night for August, and the houses in Magnolia Crescent all had their lights on.  Sirius had never given much thought to the insides of Muggle houses, but tonight they struck him as lovely and warm.  Everyone was safe inside with their pleasantly glowing Muggle gadgets.  Sirius wondered, as he eagerly passed one cozy home after another, which one would have Harry in it.

Sirius darted into a dark alley as a boy in Muggle clothes, exactly the right age, sat down wearily on a low wall.  Glasses.  Prongsish hair.  Sirius took a step closer, using what felt like the last of his strength to stop himself from wagging his tail and whimpering.

Harry threw open his trunk and rummaged through his things.  Sirius realized Harry had his huge regulation Hogwarts trunk and an owl in its cage.  Harry was running away.

Really, it wasn’t the trunk and the owl that tipped Sirius off.  It was the way Harry’s hands shook as he searched through his belongings, the way he kept looking over his shoulder, as if half afraid he’d be caught and half hoping someone would come help him.  Sirius remembered the night he’d left home as a teenager and gone to stay with the Potters.  He understood how alone Harry must feel at this moment and wished Harry knew he had his godfather right behind him. 

Harry looked up, aware someone was watching him.  “Lumos,” he said and stepped towards the alley.

There must, Sirius thought, be some part of Harry that remembers the big black dog whose yankable ears had provoked his first laugh.  There was a flicker of something in Harry’s eyes, and it could very well have been recognition.

No.  It was fear.  Harry cried out and fell backwards into the street.  There was a loud crack.

It was the Knight Bus, emergency transport, Sirius remembered his mother say with disapproval in her voice, for people with nowhere to go and no one to help them get there. Sirius had hoped to glimpse Harry through a lighted window at home with a loving family.  Instead, here was James’s son, barely thirteen and reduced to taking the Knight Bus alone after dark. 

Sirius heard Harry tell the conductor what had frightened him—“a big black thing—” and wished Harry hadn’t spotted him.

Sirius hoped Harry had someone in his life as welcoming as the Potters had been for Sirius.  He wished for someone he himself could turn to, someone waiting at the end of his long journey.  After his brief encounter with Harry, the next familiar face he saw would belong to Peter Pettigrew.

Sirius headed north, looking back for one last sight of Harry.  Harry boarded the bus, looking back for signs of the Grim he must now think was haunting him.

 

 

             

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