The Sugar Quill
Author: Shandethe (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Coming Home  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Author's Note: This story takes place in between "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire".


They wove in and out of the clouds, above the ocean below. The winged hippogriff dove downward, to get a clearer view.

His rider, Sirius Black, laughed out loud, his matted black hair whipping in the wind. It was a wonderful feeling, to be free again. To be able to have all the happy thoughts he wanted, whenever he wanted.

And what he wanted most of all right now was to go home. It had been a long time since he'd seen his mother, Evelyn Black, or his younger brother and twin sister. As far as Dumbledore had found out for him on the map he now held, the Blacks now lived on a tiny island off the coast of Madagascar. They were the only inhabitants.

And that was his destination.

But would they accept him again? After all, the shame and scandal of his imprisonment had been what drove them to this remote location.

Buckbeak touched on the ground. Sirius stepped off and took a deep breath. The warm, clean air felt good in his tired lungs. He turned the hippogriff, smiling a little nervously. "Well, Beaky, shall we see if the family's at home?"

Buckbeak nodded.

"Very well, then," Sirius said, taking Buckbeak's reins and leading him down the path. The warm sun glinted down on the path, partially blocked by the lush vegetation as he walked.

And then he saw it. A large bungalow house surrounded by a beautiful garden. In the garden, a young woman in a wide-brimmed straw hat and waist-length black, curly hair was working, planting more flowers. Then she looked up. Her aquamarine eyes looked into his black ones.

Time slowed, or so it seemed, as she stood, dirt falling from her apron. Slowly she walked toward him.

She hung back a little, as if she didn't believe he was really there.

"Sirius?" Her voice finally came, barely a whisper.

He nodded, smiling, tears pooling in his eyes. He couldn't believe after all these years, he was really looking at his fraternal twin sister. He could still hear her screams in his mind as the Dementors took him away, the memory washing over him like a wave.

"Sirius! No, you can't take him!" the younger Ravenica shouted, grabbing onto the sleeve of one of the two Dementors that held Sirius. The Dementor she had grabbed simply shook her off, and she landed on the ground in a heap.

Evelyn Black helped her daughter up, tears flowing freely from her face. "Please, Mr. Crouch, he didn't do it!'

Only Darius was silent. But the look on his face said more than any words could have. He

turned away, and Sirius glimpsed a tear trickling down his face.

"It'll be all right," Sirius called over his shoulder. "I'll be fine. We'll see each other again, I promise."

Here in the present, Ravenica's eyes were once again filled with tears. This time, however, they were tears of joy.

She threw her arms around his neck, sobbing. "Oh, Sirius....Sirius....I knew you'd come

back....never doubted it for a second..."

"Easy now, Ravenica," Sirius said in a husky voice, holding back his own tears. He looked down at her. She looked much older than when he had last seen her. Her skin was tanned a deep bronze, and her eyes had lines under them. But she was still as beautiful as ever to him.

"How's my favorite little sister been?" He was older than she by five minutes.

Ravenica punched him on the shoulder. "I'm your only sister, you nitwit." she said through her tears. She let go of his neck, holding him at an arm's length. "Good God! Didn't they feed you at Azkaban? You're so thin!"

Sirius offered a wry smile. "The corpse look is in. All the wrongly accused wizards are doing it."

Ravenica laughed, and grabbed his hand. "Come on. Mum will want to see you!"

The two of them entered the bungalow. "Mum!" Ravenica yelled. "Mum, look who's come to call!"

Evelyn Black had been cooking a cauldronful of stew. "Ravie, I haven't time for this nonsense," she said brusquely. "Your brother'll be in from the fields soon and I--"

That was when Evelyn looked up and saw Sirius standing there beside Ravenica. The spoon she had been using for stirring clattered as it fell to the floor. "Siri? Is that you?"

"Yes, Mother," Sirius responded.

Evelyn crossed the room over to where he was. He could see her more clearly now. She was still as tall and thin as he remembered, but her face was lined with age. She looked like a much older version of Ravenica. Yet her aquamarine eyes retained much of their youthful energy. Her graying black hair was even longer than Ravenica's, pulled into a long braid that draped down to her knees. She wore a flowing caftan with an apron over it. Her eyes narrowed.

"Mother, I can explain--"

His sentence was cut off as Evelyn threw her arms around his shoulders, temporarily cutting off his ability to speak, or even breathe.

"Uh, Mum?" he gasped. "Oxygen has now become an issue..." He relaxed against her, closing his eyes briefly. God, how I've missed her.

Evelyn released her grip slighty. "My darling....." She gazed up into his eyes. "Oh, I've missed you so much. I'm glad you escaped."

Sirius stared at his mother in disbelief. "How did you know--"

"Remus Lupin, dear," responded his mother in a wavering voice. "He wrote to Ravenica about it." Her black eyes took on a mischievous glint. "They've been exchanging quite a few letters lately..."

Ravenica went scarlet. "Mum..."

Sirius raised an eyebrow, the deadened look in his eyes fading slightly. "Oh really now...."

"We'll talk about all that later," Evelyn said. "I've made stew. And Darius will be home soon from the fields."

Ravenica suddenly wrinkled her nose. "Though you may want to bathe first, Siri...."

Sirius turned around to look at her. "Well excuse me, Ms. Clean, they didn't exactly have a bath-house in Azkaban. A rag and a basin of cold water was about it."

"In that case," Ravenica said, "Let me show you to the springs. I'll get you some of Darius' things to wear when you get out."

They came to what looked like a small shack just behind the main house. Ravenica opened the door. Steam rose from the springs, surrounded by a polished rock surface.

"Darius did that," Ravenica explained. "And he built the shack for it. Well, I'll leave you and get those clothes."

And she did.

Sirius didn't waste any time. He peeled off the filthy robes he'd been wearing and carefully lowered himself into the steaming water.

Ahhh.... That was amazing, he thought, relaxing in the water. He hadn't experienced anything like that in years.

Just then his sister entered again. He looked up. "That does it. I'm just going to live here forever. Is that all right?"

Ravenica laughed, and set down the clothes, along with fresh towels and soap. "No! How would the rest of us bathe?"

"Well, the ocean looks rather nice.."

"Shut up, you," Ravenica said with a grin. "I'm going to go back and show that hippogriff of yours to the courtyard. And after dinner I'm going to do something about that hair of yours. It's driving me mad."

"Me too," Sirius said with a nod, and Ravenica departed once more.

Ravenica. She had been so shy in her school days at Hogwarts. When she was around people she didn't know very well, she had been reduced to stammering sentences.

It looked she'd grown up. She had a lot of intelligence and a lot of sense. And an uncanny ability to predict the future. Sirius believed his sister was a real Seer. She didn't usually need to tap into ritual the way some did, the visions and feelings just came to her. It would have made her a bit of a freak at school, but Sirius and his friends had made sure no one teased her.

But Darius....Sirius had no idea how his thirty-one-year old brother would react to his homecoming. Darius was one of those quiet, contained people - one never quite knew what he was thinking.

He had a feeling Darius' reaction wouldn't be quite as welcoming as his mother and sister's, as he had been forced to drop out of Hogwarts after Sirius's imprisonment.

Darius had loved school. He was very intelligent, and was never happier than when he had his nose buried in a thick, musty old book, the thicker the better.

About an hour and a half later (although Sirius could have stayed in forever), he got out, and toweled himself off. He dressed in Darius' clothes (plain robes of dark blue) and walked out of the bathhouse to join his family.


When he came out, his mother was setting the table, and his sister was placing the food on it. He heard the door open and shut.

"I'm home!" a male voice called. Sirius froze. Darius...

Darius Black walked into the room, looking quite different from Sirius' memory of him. His hair had been longish and a bit stringy, and he had been a thin, somewhat weak boy. But now his hair was cropped very short, and stood up in spikes on his head. He wore a single silver earring in one ear. His eyes, like those of Sirius and their late father, were black. His skin was tanned, and his white shirt was open, revealing a well-developed chest and the sleeves were rolled up, revealing muscular arms.

He stopped when he saw Sirius. "Merlin's beard," he muttered under his breath.

Evelyn stood up. "Darry....your brother's back..."

"I noticed," Darius replied, never taking his eyes off Sirius. "How's our resident killer?"

Sirius's fists clenched at his sides. "I didn't kill anyone, Darius!"

"I'm sure. Maybe I should ring up Azkaban--"

"You'll do no such thing, Darius," Evelyn snapped. "Sirius is your older brother. He's family. And he'll stay with us for as long as he likes."

"And the fact that I've taken care of you and Ravenica all this time means nothing, I suppose?" Darius snapped back, his eyes blazing. He stormed off to his bedroom, the door slamming behind him.

Sirius stared after his brother. "What was that about?"

Ravenica sighed, and got up. "I'll talk to him." She left the table.

Evelyn sighed. "Eat your stew, dear...I'll try to explain."

She didn't have to tell him twice. Sirius dug in, as his mother began to talk.

"When you were imprisoned....oh, how can I say this....our lives were shattered. I never believed you did it, not for a second, but everyone else seemed to. Darius had to drop out of Hogwarts. I hired a tutor for him. And then, the owls started arriving. You can only listen to so many Howlers before getting fed up. And Howlers weren't the worst of it. It got so bad that we could scarcely leave the house."

"I...I'm sorry, Mum," Sirius said shakily. "I never knew..."

"Darling, it's all right. I forgave you long ago." She reached for his hand, he took it. "You are my son, after all." She cleared her throat. "Shall I continue?"


"Well, at any rate, if we couldn't go out, we couldn't work. We were pretty hard up for awhile, if you'll excuse the term. Then Shandethe Sanders came to our rescue."

Sirius blinked, the name very familiar. "Ravie's friend from Hogwarts? So Shandethe Wedmore married Daniel Sanders after all, eh? They had only just gotten engaged last I saw them. At Lily and James' house, a few days before...." he trailed off.

Evelyn smiled. "Yes, she did marry him. They were so happy together---but he died two years later."

Sirius gaped. "How?"

"I imagine the same ones who tortured the Longbottoms to insanity. He had been dispatched the night they were attacked to go rescue them, but according to the papers, one of Voldemort's followers was waiting for him. He never got there."

"Oh, yes," Sirius recalled. "He was an Auror. I remember that much."

"One of the very few who believed you innocent...but his word wasn't good enough for Crouch." Evelyn said in disgust.

Sirius shook his head. "I never knew."

"Well, it happened two years into your imprisonment," Evelyn pointed out.

"That's horrible," Sirius said angrily. "Those sons of---"

"Yes, I know, dear, that's what Darius said," Evelyn said. "But Shandethe has recovered relatively well. He was very well off, you know, and left her a great deal of money."

She used it to help us get here, and start our little farm. We grow dragonsbane, and it sells for just enough to keep this place running. I rather like it out here," she said as an afterthought. "I always wanted to live somewhere warm."

"I remember." Sirius said quietly. "I'm glad Father didn't live to see this." Orion Black had died three years prior to Sirius' imprisonment.

"Oh, don't say that, Siri,"

Evelyn looked at her son, her eyes shining. "He wouldn't have believed you were responsible, either."

"But Darius does."

"Not for the murder of Peter Pettigrew, certainly. I think he blames you for upsetting our peaceful life."

"Which I did," Sirius said, looking at the ground.

"No. Pettigrew did. We know that now." Evelyn smiled softly. "Eat your stew, dear, or it'll get cold."


"Honestly, Darius, you're being completely unreasonable!" Ravenica exclaimed. "Sirius didn't kill anyone! Pettigrew faked his own death, you know that!"

Darius sighed. "Yes, I do know that. But it doesn't excuse the fact that our lives were ruined, that I couldn't even graduate--"

"Is that what this is about?" Ravenica demanded. "Oh, don't be ridiculous, Darius! Peter was responsible for everything. Not Sirius! Talk about misdirected anger."

Darius looked up at his sister, his eyes shining. "I.....I suppose you're right. I shouldn't punish Sirius just because I can't punish Pettigrew. It's just that...." his voice broke. "I...I missed him so much. I've been so angry...with Crouch, the Dementors...Pettigrew." His eyes blazed with anger. "Oooh, he'd better pray that I never get my hands on his fat neck!"

"Not to worry, Voldemort is probably punishing him this very second," Ravenica informed him.

"Come on now, you've got to apologize to Sirius."

Darius got up from his chair. "All right. Let's go, then."


Ravenica re-entered the kitchen, with Darius in tow. "Here we are, then," she said brightly. "Darius has something to say." She nudged her brother. "Go on..."

"I'm not a child, Ravenica," Darius said irritably. He looked over at his brother. "I.....I...I'm....s..sorry, Sirius. I shouldn't have gone off the way I did. If it's anyone's fault our lives were shattered, it was Pettigrew's. It was wrong to blame you just for being there. So...I'm apologizing. I've...missed you. A lot. Which is why it would be nice if you....said something...right about now."

Sirius had stayed silent during all this. Finally, he spoke. "I forgive you."

Darius smiled, lighting up his entire face. "I'm glad that you're back. Have you any idea what it's like being the only man in the house?"

Sirius laughed, and Ravenica and Evelyn raised their eyebrows at Darius. The latter sat down in a chair next to Sirius.

Darius continued."We've missed you, you know." He smiled playfully. "You've a lot of gossip to catch up on...."

Sirius sat up straighter. "Such as?"

The family began to eat, as Darius (between bites of stew) filled Sirius in on everything that had been going on in their lives.

"What I want to know," Sirius commented, digging into his third helping of stew, "Is what is going on between you and Remus, Ravenica?"

Ravenica blushed. "Nothing! I mean....we've been writing a lot to each other, ever since your escape last month. But I haven't seen him."

"You two would be cute together," teased Darius.

"Stop!" groaned Ravenica. "Every time someone says that about me and a man, the man cuts off all contact with me! It's vexing, I can tell you."

"Well, maybe Remus will be different," Evelyn put in. "After all, he's not a normal man."

"That's true," Ravenica agreed. "He sounds so nice in his letters." She blushed again.

Sirius shook his head, chuckling to himself. He put down his knife and fork, finally finished with dinner, and started to get up. "Think I'll go out front."

"Oh, no you don't," Ravenica said, stuffing the last of her salad in her mouth. "I still want to do something about your hair. It looks better now that you've washed it, but it still drives me insane."

Sirius gave a defeated sigh. It was pointless to argue when Ravenica got that look on her face. "All right, all right....just don't make me look like too much of a pansy."

Ravenica seated him, then located scissors, a towel and a comb. She snipped away at his hair. Shorter and shorter it became...

"Uh, Ravie? I don't particulary favor the bald look, in case you were wondering.."

"You won't be bald," Ravenica said, holding up a lock of hair and snipping it. "Now stop talking or I may lose my concentration---and then you just might end up bald."

"Heaven forbid."

There was little talking after that. Finally, Ravenica held up a mirror to Sirius' face. He did a double take at himself. "Is that me?"

The man looking back at him had short hair, in a slightly shaggy-yet-neat style. With shave he had just gotten, he looked about ten years younger. "That's some trick you pulled with those scissors, Ravie!"

Ravenica grinned, and held up her scissors. "What can I say? I'm a beautician and a magician!"


The next few weeks passed by like a dream. Sirius corresponded with Harry, Dumbledore and Remus, helped his family maintain the farm, and concentrated on getting back into shape.

At the end of one particularly warm August day, Sirius collapsed in a wicker chair on the

bungalow porch. Evelyn walked out of the house holding a glass. "Iced tea, darling?"

Sirius looked up gratefully. "Please."

Evelyn handed him the glass, and he took a deep swig. He wiped his mouth off as his mother sat in the chair next to him.

"It's a funny thing," Sirius commented, looking out into the distance. "Before Azkaban, I didn't think there was any problem your iced tea couldn't fix."

Evelyn raised an eyebrow. "Things change."

"That's the truth," Sirius agreed. "I changed. I know I did. That night with Pettigrew....I would have killed him, Mother. I would have been exactly what everyone said I was. When I think of what I almost became..." he trailed off. Then his features hardened. "Not that he wouldn't have deserved it."

Evelyn placed a hand on his arm. "It's understandable. Twelve years in the most horrible wizard prison there is would be enough to drive the compassion from anyone's heart. Just be glad you did the right thing."

"The right thing? Ha!" Sirius snorted. "Peter got away! And I'm a hunted man now!"

"The dementors won't look for you here," Evelyn told him. "Not after all the spells that Ravenica and Darius put up. They can't set foot here."

"For which I'm grateful," Sirius said with a smile. "It took them forever to find those spells." His smile faded a bit. "I'm safe...but what about Harry? He's my godson, Mum. I feel terrible leaving him with that awful Muggle family of his."

"You can't blame yourself for that, Sirius," his mother informed him. "That's the safest place for him now."

"Everyone keeps saying that. But I'm his godfather, damn it! I'm supposed to be protecting him! But where am I? Hiding, that's where!"

"Hiding so that you'll be able to protect him when the time comes," Evelyn put in serenely. "He's under Dumbledore's protection, isn't he? Nothing can harm him."

"All the same, I can't shake the feeling that..."

"Hush now," Evelyn said, standing up again. "Don't concern yourself with all that now--"

Suddenly the sky turned dark, as the clouds began rolling in. "Oh, dear," Evelyn groaned. "Looks like we're in for a storm. Get Buckbeak from the courtyard, won't you, Sirius?"

She disappeared into the house, leaving Sirius alone on the porch. He got to his feet and made his way to the courtyard.


The storm that night was harsher than any before it. The wind howled, branches scraped against the windows, and rain poured down as if a lake had exploded in the sky.

"Don't worry, we've got enchantments up," Darius told his brother. "The house shouldn't suffer any major damage."

Ravenica was staring out the window of the living room at the raging storm, ignoring all else.

Sirius stopped in the doorway. "Ravie? Everything all right?"

Ravenica brushed a strand of curly black hair out of her aquamarine eyes. "I suppose so," she said. "It's just that I have a bad feeling about this."

"The storm?"

"Sort of." Ravenica turned her face toward him. "I can't really explain it well. But the last time I felt like this, it was the night Lily and James died."

Sirius stared at her in disbelief as she went on. "You know sometimes I feel things before

something bad happens...oh, don't look at me that way, I'm not being vague on purpose. I can't help the fact that this ability of mine is so erratic!"

"I didn't say anything," Sirius replied. "I know you can't help it. It's all right. Why don't you get some rest? It's late, you know."

Ravenica looked up at him, and nodded slowly. I hope Siri's right, and a little rest will cure this shaky feeling I've got....God willing... She got up, and the two of them went down the hall.


The next day dawned sunny and bright, as if nothing had happened the night before. The Blacks went outside the house to survey the damage.

"The foliage is everywhere," announced Darius. "Luckily the crops were protected, but everything else is a mess."

Ravenica groaned as she stepped in a huge mud puddle. "You're not kidding," she said in disgust. She tilted her head upward, shielding her eyes from the sun as she looked up at the sky. "What's that?" she asked, pointing at a small shape in the sky.

Sirius, Darius and Evelyn looked up, following Ravenica's finger.

"It looks like a..."



Sirius lay sprawled on the ground, a soaking-wet gray shape spread out on his face. Ravenica, Darius and Evelyn worked hard to control their laughter.

"What on earth--why, it's an owl," Ravenica commented, barely keeping the amusement out of her tone. She picked the fluffly male owl up off the ground. "Poor thing, it must have gotten caught in last night's storm."

From the ground, Sirius groaned, and spit out a mouthful of damp feathers. "Poor it? How about poor me?! And could someone kindly help me up?"

Darius pulled his brother to his feet. "You okay?"

Sirius groaned again, and continued spitting out feathers. "For someone who was just hit in the face with an owl, I'm smashing, thanks."

"Oh, it's from Shandethe!" Ravenica exclaimed happily. She took the letter from its leather pouch and made her way to the porch. Evelyn had taken the owl from Ravenica and placed it on the railing of the porch, so it could dry. Sirius and Darius looked at each other, shrugged, and followed suit. Ravenica began reading the letter out loud.

Dear Ravenica.

Things have been insane here lately. I've barely had a moment to myself. Twinkle, my house-elf, has been more on edge than usual. You know how excitable house-elves are in general, especially my Twinkle. Ever since she read in the Daily Prophet about Sirius's escape, I mean. Now she's convinced he'll show up and cut our throats. Isn't she funny?

"Hysterical," Sirius said dryly.

"Hey, at least she doesn't believe you're a killer," Darius offered.

Ravenica went on,"Mum's decided to move to Hogsmeade. She's been so lonely since Dad died last year. She grew up there, so she's bought a little cottage on the outskirts. It's strange. I'm so confused now. But I'm leaving for Venezuela tomorrow, so send your owls there instead. They've just discovered what they think is the first-ever cauldron. It's my job go authenticate it. Bertha Jorkins was supposed to accompany me, but it looks like she isn't going now. Apparently she's late getting back from some trip to Albania. I can't help feeling that this isn't Bertha being Bertha. She didn't used to be so forgetful.

Well, anyhow, I have quite a few doubts that it's the real thing, but at the least I'll get a decent vacation out of it. Maybe even an adventure or two, like we used to have back at Hogwarts.

Sincerely yours,


"I hope she's doing all right," Ravenica said, frowning. "She was close to her Dad...such a sad thing, when he died."

"He was a Muggle, wasn't he?" Sirius asked. Then he frowned. "What exactly does Shandethe do for a living again? Some sort of archeologist, isn't she?"

"A relic hunter, I believe," Evelyn said. "A profession that suited her. She had a real reputation for taking risks." She shook her head. "Lily, Ravenica and Shandethe..the best female pranksters in Hogwarts history."

Sirius grinned. "The female auxilary of the Marauders."

Ravenica laughed. "Oh, yes, I remember. Most of the time we managed to talk our way out of punishment, but...oh, I'll never forget the time we had to do Filch's laundry! Ugh, what a mess!"

"At least you didn't have to do Snape's laundry," Sirius said with a smirk.

Ravenica laughed even harder. "Oh, don't say that! I'll have to sleep with the light on for the rest of my life!"

Sirius was laughing so hard he had to hold on to the porch railing to stay upright. Darius was also laughing pretty hard, and holding onto Sirius' shoulder. Ravenica had wisely seated herself, and even Evelyn was chuckling, leaning against the doorway.

"What an image," Darius said with a straight face, having calmed down. "That Snape needs some serious laxatives."

Ravenica, Sirius and Evelyn stared at him in disbelief. They looked at each other, and burst out laughing again.

This is what I've missed most, Sirius thought, glancing around at his family. And this is what I'll always have, if only in my heart.

Ravenica stopped laughing suddenly. Her eyes squeezed shut as if in pain, her hands flew to her head as let out a small shriek and fell right out of her chair.

"Ravenica! What's wrong?" Sirius asked frantically.

"I think she's having a vision," Darius said, a bit more calmly. "Help me get her inside."

Between them, Darius and Sirius carried Ravenica into the living room, laying her out on the sofa. She was still clutching her head and groaning. Evelyn went into the kitchen to get some water.

Ravenica's eyes flew open, and she sat up abruptly, breathing hard.

"Easy there," Sirius soothed. "Lie down."

"Easy?" Ravenica snapped. "I'd like to see you have a vision like that. It was like a migraine with pictures!"

"What did you see, Ravie?"

That was Evelyn, who had come back from the kitchen. She gave Ravenica the glass, and the dark-haired girl took a reluctant sip.


"What?!" Sirius exclaimed. "Are you sure?"

Ravenica nodded. "It had to be. Not many have a lightning-shaped scar on the forehead, do they?"

"Anything else?" Sirius asked.

"Yes," Ravenica said. "I saw a dark shadow following him. I had this strong feeling of foreboding. Whatever was following him wasn't good."

Sirius lept up. "I have go back."

Evelyn and Darius stepped in front of him, blocking his path. "I don't think so," they said at the same time.

"Don't you understand?!" Sirius shouted. "Harry is my godson! I'm the only family he has, other than those awful Muggle people!"

"We do understand," Evelyn told her son. "But you can't just go tearing off like that. You're a hunted man, remember?"

"I don't care," Sirius said in a dangerously calm voice. "I've been getting letters from Harry about his scar hurting. That only happens when Voldemort is nearby or doing someone harm."

Evelyn stopped talking. Darius spoke up. "Look, bro, he'll be fine. He'll be at Hogwarts, where Dumbledore can look after him. And....if you're so worried, why not write to Dumbledore? He could keep an eye on him. And...he's going to the Quidditch World Cup with the Weasleys, isn't he? He'll be fine."

Sirius sighed. He had never had a problem standing up for himself or doing what he wanted, regardless of what others thought. He hated being outnumbered.

Even more, he hated it when his brother was right. It was so often.

"Fine," he snapped. " more vision, or letter, and I'm going up there."

"Deal," Darius said with a smile. Seeing the look on Sirius' face, he added hastily, "Don't worry. Everything will be fine. I know it."

Sirius sighed, and looked out the window. "For Harry's sake, I hope you're right."


But Darius was wrong.

Because three days later, Ravenica collapsed again. This time she didn't wake up for two days. The Blacks took turns watching over her.

"She's just lying there now," Darius said, wiping his brow as he left the room. He turned to Sirius. "The first day, she was screaming things out."

"I remember," Sirius said quietly.

"But now she's just lying there, quiet like," Darius said, his brow furrowed with worry. "Her eyes are open, but she's not awake. She's crying, but there's no noise. I don't know what to do. She's never been like this before, not even the night Lily and James died!"

Sirius sighed. "I know. I'm worried, too, but there's nothing we can do until she wakes up." He glanced at the clock. "It's three in the morning. Get to bed, all right? You look like a zomb--" he stopped short.

Darius blinked, and looked up. Ravenica stood in the doorway.

If Darius looked like a zombie, then Ravenica could have been the zombie queen. There were dark circles under her eyes, and her skin was waxy, covered with a thin layer of sweat. Her black hair hung down in frizzy clumps. Even in the warm tropical night, she shivered, as if she was cold.

"What are you doing up?" Sirius demanded. "You should be in bed!"

Ravenica looked at him, holding onto the doorjamb for support. "There's trouble."

"What do you mean?" Darius asked.

"The Dark Mark...I saw it in my visions. There was the Quidditch world cup, a wand with a phoenix feather, a dark shadow....I think it's the same one I saw in my vision before!"

"You mean Harry's in danger?" Sirius asked, his voice barely a whisper.

Ravenica nodded. "I think so. And I saw Peter, and...and this horrible thing, it looked like some kind of monster. I think it was Voldemort, Sirius!"

"Do you know what this means if you're right, Ravenica?"

Evelyn Black stepped out of the corridor shadows. It was she who had spoken.

Ravenica nodded once more, though her skin was chalk white. "Voldemort's slowly returning to power. And when he gets his full power back....he'll go after Harry."

Sirius' black eyes blazed. "I've got to go back."

"Not now," Evelyn said firmly. "Wait till it's light outside. For now....get some sleep. You'll need it."

There was no arguing with Evelyn Black when she crossed her arms like that. Darius, Sirius and Ravenica looked at each other, shrugged, and returned to their bedrooms.

A few hours later, Sirius sat in the kitchen, reading the Daily Prophet, his fingers trembling as he noticed the headlines. Every article in the paper, it seemed, was about the Dark Mark's appearance at the Quidditch World Cup.

Sirius should have been used to Ravenica's dark predictions coming true by now, but this one was especially unnerving, because it meant that Harry truly was in danger.

His mother appeared next to him. He looked up at her. "Have you read this?"

She nodded slowly, and slid into the seat next to his. "I have. Ravenica was right." She sighed.

"There's a letter from Dumbledore," Darius said as he entered the room, holding up a roll of parchment.

Sirius took it from his brother, and read it quickly.

"What's he say?" Ravenica asked, trying to read it over his shoulder.

Sirius sighed. "He says to stay put. I swear, sometimes it's like the man reads my mind."

"It makes sense, I suppose," Evelyn said. "I mean, Harry will be back under Dumbledore's watch at Hogwarts, won't he?"

Sirius nodded slowly.

"Then there's nothing to do now but wait," Mrs. Black put in.


Sirius Black stood ankle-deep in the ocean, watching the waves crash around his feet.

He'd told Dumbledore about Ravenica's dream in his reply; he hoped the headmaster would get it before Harry arrived at Hogwarts.

The sun was setting, making the ocean at his feet look ruby-red. He picked up a pebble off the sand, and hurled it into the waves. It disappeared from view.

Evelyn Black was right, as mothers usually are. Being at Hogwarts under Dumbledore's watch was the best thing for Harry.

Harry. Just know that wherever you are, as long as I'm alive, you won't be unloved. Even if I can't be with you right now, I promise you that someday things will be different.

Right now, there was nothing he could do but wait.

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