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
“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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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.