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Chapter 1: Chapter One.
The Prisoner's Sole Visitors ~ The Dog In Winter ~ Snakes, Lions and Stars
The Prisoner’s Sole Visitors
At times, the memories would play out in front of his very eyes like the flickering film reels Lily had sometimes taken them all to see. From the shadows, James would grin at him across the kitchen table at Godric’s Hollow... the Great Hall, full of faces he’d probably never see again, would erupt with sound as he was Sorted into Gryffindor... fed up of James’s teasing, Remus would throw aside his book and launch himself at James; Sirius could hear his own laughter as the two teenagers rolled around on the lawn, half-heartedly throwing punches they never meant to land... Belle’s beautiful face swam before him from across the Common Room, and his heart lurched as she looked up and smiled; James nudged at his ribs and whispered, ‘I reckon you might be in there’. The images unravelled, rolled and melted together, and he watched his favourite memories again and again, until he slept, or awoke... he was never quite sure which.
Sometimes, on the days in which the Dementors had lingered overlong outside of his cell, James and Lily would appear to Sirius as he’d last seen them; cold, pale, without an atom of light in their eyes. Lily’s mouth hung agape, and James’s skull was cracked where he’d fallen. They would say nothing, but stare at him through lifeless eyes until all Sirius could do was cover his face and beg for forgiveness.
At other times it seemed like James, tousle-haired and laughing, was right there by his side. He appeared almost as real as the iron bars of the cell door. He and Sirius would talk of the life they had lived together in the warmth, and of the future they had dreamt of - before it had all been blasted apart in an act of utter betrayal and a flash of green light.
In the depths of the most freezing winters, Sirius would sometimes summon the dregs of his strength and transform into his dog form; then, curled up in the corner of his cell with his snout tucked beneath his great black paws, he made himself believe that his matted fur could keep him warm. As the years shuffled by and Sirius’s elegant, muscled body wasted away to mere knotted ropes on a cracking frame, he wondered at the fact that his dog-self remained relatively healthy and large, if somewhat skinnier than his days as a bounding pup at school. Perhaps it meant that something deep within him was still alight, still healthy, still joyful... but if such a thing did exist, Sirius could not name it. He certainly could not allow it to come to the surface, knowing that the slightest hint of hope would bring the Dementors flocking to his cell like ravens to a fresh corpse.
There were days - or was it months, even years? - in which the only thought that prevented Sirius from dashing his head against the cold stone walls of his cell was the fact of his innocence. Every now and then he would allow himself to dream of escape, of vengeance, and of justice. He imagined how people would react when the truth emerged; the apologies, the outrage. He imagined Remus coming to him, full of shame at ever having believed in Sirius’s guilt, and he imagined forgiving his old friend, after making him squirm for a while. He thought longingly of motorbikes, of hot food, of girls and laughter and drink. He wondered about a family of his own, of caring for his little godson and teaching him to fly.
After a while, Sirius’s fantasies shifted. Food and women be damned, all he wanted was space. He could barely even remember what it was like to sleep on an actual bed. He imagined the feeling of earth beneath his feet, rather than stone and rotting straw. He thought of looking up and seeing the sky. How would it feel to walk, and know you never had to stop?
Time passed, the shrieks and mutterings of Azkaban rose and fell, and Sirius began almost to look forward to the Dementors passing by his cell. The way they sucked any remaining glimmer of hope or joy away in their cold wake became a welcome numbness, a momentary relief from the constant terror and pain. Then came the days in which Sirius would silently will them to enter the cell and give him their Kiss, and plunge him forever into mindless oblivion.
Those were the days in which James would inevitably appear by his side, the only source of light or warmth that Sirius had seen in weeks.
Sirius’s name was the third to be called, after ‘Ashcroft, Josiah’, who was Sorted into Hufflepuff, and ‘Baird, Laura’, who joined the Ravenclaw table. Sirius bounced up the steps and onto the dais, his casual stride towards Professor McGonagall concealing the butterflies he felt in his stomach. He did not glance towards the huddled first-years as he sat down on the stool; he had barely spoken to any of them on the train, having been ordered to sit with his cousins. He had been introduced to their friends, and instructed on the importance of discernment when it came to meeting his fellow first-years. He’d nodded, made conversation, pretended to listen, pretended to care. God, the Slytherins were dull! His eldest cousin, Bellatrix, had always given the impression that they were glamorous, fascinating people, and Sirius had been curious to meet them. He’d been somewhat disappointed to find that, despite the allure of hanging out with a gang of teenagers, the older kids were just like his cousins; preening, self-satisfied and practically humourless. He saw them smiling up at him indulgently now, knowing that he would soon be joining their table. Narcissa had made a space for him next to her, and she watched with solemn eyes as Professor McGonagall placed the ancient Sorting Hat on his head.
‘Ah, another of the illustrious Black family, is it?’ Sirius gave a little start as the hoarse voice of the Hat spoke into his ear. ‘I suppose you want to be in Slytherin? Family tradition and all that, hmm?’
‘Not particularly,’ Sirius thought dully, thinking of how Bellatrix and her friends had laughed as the trolley-witch had stumbled when the train lurched. If that was their idea of a good time, he was in for a long few years.
‘Oh?’ croaked the Hat. ‘Well, I can certainly see plenty of raw talent here. Oh yes, indeed. You’ve a sharp mind, haven’t you, boy? But you don’t have the patience for Ravenclaw, no, no... not by a mile. None of the doggedness you’d need in Hufflepuff either, although the tendency towards loyalty I see here is rather remarkable in one so young... I saw something similar in Miss Bellatrix Black. But Hufflepuff is a little too unadventurous for you, perhaps. You really could do well in Slytherin, I can see a thirst for greatness here. You do have high hopes for yourself, don’t you, Master Black? But then again...’
Sirius was growing aware of a rumble from outside the brim of the Hat; the students were whispering to one another... this was taking too long... it was unheard of for the Hat to be unsure of where to place a child by the name of ‘Black’.
‘Hurry up...’ Sirius thought anxiously.
‘Ha! See, what was I saying about patience? Well, you certainly make up for it in courage, oh yes. I can see heroism in your future, young man.’ In the darkness of the Hat, Sirius beamed with pleasure. The Hat made a little tutting noise. ‘Oh really now, heroism? I’ve met heroes before. And I have to say, you have ‘hero’ written all over you, heaven help you. Well, as tempting as it is to follow tradition and place you in Slytherin, where you would doubtlessly do well, I think it’s going to have to be... GRYFFINDOR!’
The Hat was lifted from Sirius’s head and the Great Hall blazed into his vision. There was a long moment of silence; it was not until Sirius reached the bottom step and turned towards the Gryffindor table that anyone reacted. Then, the Gryffindors burst into applause - although some were more hesitant than others, knowing the reputation of the Black family - and he was welcomed to the table with a slap on the shoulder from an older boy and lots of enthusiastic grins.
‘First new Gryffindor of the year!’
‘Lucky escape, that - who wants to be a Slytherin anyway?’
‘Ha! Look at their faces!’
Sirius looked across the Hall to the table decorated with green and silver; the blood seemed to have drained from Bellatrix’s face, except for two spots of colour on her high cheekbones. Narcissa looked horrified, her pretty face wrinkled in ugly displeasure as she stared back at her younger cousin. Andromeda, he thought vaguely, seemed to be about to smile, but she started coughing and turned away.
Some of Bellatrix’s awful friends were nudging her and laughing; Sirius saw her turn on the boy sitting next to her with such a look of dreadful fury on her face that the smile disappeared from his face instantly and he knocked over his goblet, spilling pumpkin juice all over the table. Taking advantage of the Slytherins’ distraction, Sirius turned to watch ‘Blackbourne, Margaret’ be Sorted into Gryffindor, and he joined in with the applause as she came to sit opposite him.
Sirius didn’t know how to feel; he’d been brought up expecting to be in Slytherin, like all of his relatives before him... but he couldn’t suppress a feeling of excitement, a rush of exhilaration at the thought of breaking away from the Black family traditions and expectations. Nevertheless, he couldn’t help glancing up at the legendary bewitched ceiling as the Sorting Ceremony continued; the night sky cast moonlight down into the hall, where it was practically obliterated by the many hundreds of bright candles floating above the tables. He could see Orion, Sirius, Regulus, Cygnus, Acturus... the names of the stars and constellations came naturally to him. It was the first time the heavens had looked down upon a Black sitting at the Gryffindor table. He applauded automatically as Alice Christopherson was also Sorted into Gryffindor; the older students were ecstatic - ‘Three in a row!’. There was another burst of excitement at the scarlet-draped table towards the end of the ceremony, when ‘Lupin, Remus’, ‘Pettigrew, Peter’, and ‘Potter, James’ were all Sorted into Gryffindor, one after the other.
‘Another hat-trick!’ whooped the big fourth-year sitting next to Sirius. He tried to give each of the new recruits a smile as they joined the table, but was simultaneously well aware of the dark glare of cousin Bella piercing him from across the Hall. Sirius stared up at the ceiling once again, and didn’t even notice that the table had suddenly become laden with food until somebody nudged his elbow slightly.
‘Aren’t you hungry?’
The space next to Sirius had been filled by one of the other first-years, a boy with tousled brown hair and a long scar running the length of one thin cheek. Sirius looked down at the plates of food and then up at the other boy.
‘I asked if you were hungry,’ repeated the boy with a little smile. ‘But that ceiling is really impressive.’
‘I was just looking at the stars,’ said Sirius, slightly embarrassed. He reached forward and passed a plate of chicken legs to the boy, who thanked him. ‘I’m Sirius.’
‘Remus,’ said the scarred boy through a mouthful of chicken. Opposite Remus, a boy with hair darker even than Sirius’s unruly mane held out a hand.
‘Pass them here,’ the boy said, motioning towards the platter lazily. Sirius felt a flash of irritation mingled with recognition. He had never met the boy before, but he knew straight away that here was another kid born into a family of reputation, with certain expectations. The touch of arrogance in his voice was a tone with which Sirius was extremely well-acquainted. He was surprised, then, when he looked up to find the boy smiling at him quizzically, not a trace of conceit on his face. Sirius passed him the plate. ‘Why were you looking at the stars?’ the boy asked, without guile. Sirius considered for a moment - he’d just met these boys and didn’t want to seem weird... but they were both looking at him with interest, and even at the age of eleven Sirius found it hard to resist an audience. He pointed at the sparkling ceiling.
‘You see Orion’s belt? Those three stars in a row?’ he asked. The boys looked up.
‘Well, that’s my father’s constellation. He’s called Orion. And then if you look a little below and to the right, there’s that big bright star -’ he smiled winningly ‘- that’s Sirius. Me.’
The boys both laughed.
‘My parents named me after some ancient guy whose brother killed him for laughing at a wall he’d built,’ said Remus, raising his eyebrows.
Sirius snorted. ‘Do you have a brother?’
‘Does he have a wall?’ the other boy interjected through a mouthful of roast potato.
‘No and no,’ Remus laughed.
‘I’m James...’ said the black-haired boy. ‘I don’t have brothers or sisters either. So although I wasn’t named after a star or a myth, my parents do think the sun shines out of my -’
‘Are you finished with the gravy?’ asked a girl with red hair, who was sitting further down the table. James stuttered into silence and mutely passed her the gravy boat, his face suddenly scarlet; Sirius and Remus fell about laughing.
The laughter resonated down a passage of over twenty years, and Sirius watched the memory fade. He could almost make himself believe that the familiar deep chill in his bones had dissipated slightly in the wake of his reminiscence. He chuckled softly to himself until a Dementor drifted past, attracted by the scent of a man not yet wholly broken. His laughter at a cherished memory soon gave way to the quiet, comfortless keening of a wounded animal.
‘C’mon Sirius, I’m sure you’re making it sound worse than it was,’ said Peter to Sirius, who was slumped in his favourite armchair in the Gryffindor common room. ‘Remember, I was panicked about you lot coming over to mine last year, but Mum loved you guys!’
‘I think she was just relieved that you have real, human friends,’ said Remus, prompting a snort of laughter from Sirius, who was now holding his head in his hands. Peter poked Remus playfully in the ribs.
‘Mostly human,’ he smirked.
As Remus crumpled up a piece of parchment and threw it at Peter, James looked up from his spot on the floor where he had been using his wand to levitate his Potions essay, rather than write the thing.
‘It really wasn’t that bad,’ he said. ‘I mean... it could have been worse.’
‘My mother tried to hex your parents!’ groaned Sirius from behind his fingers. ‘Tom threw us out of the Leaky Cauldron!’
‘Well - hey, the good news is that Mum says you can stay with us any time you like, no invitation necessary,’ said James soothingly. ‘I think she might have thought we were exaggerating about your mum being completely...um... about her temper.’
Sirius laughed dully. ‘Well, now she knows we weren’t.’
‘Exactly. So cheer up, Sirius. You can spend Christmas at mine, if you want.’
‘Cheers, mate. Things have been getting worse ever since Andromeda went off with that Hufflepuff kid,’ Sirius sighed. ‘I made the mistake of mentioning Lily Evans to my mother the other day, and now she’s convinced I’m going to run off with a Muggle-born too. I’ll be getting a Howler any day now.’
‘Uh, why were you talking about Evans?’ asked James, nonchalantly.
Sirius grinned mischievously. ‘Okay, I may have been baiting my parents slightly. They wanted to know if I knew anyone in the Slug Club; they admire old Sluggy’s way of doing things... and I mentioned Evans. They asked if she was from the Pembroke or Tintagel Evanses. I said she was of a more northerly persuasion...’
James laughed. ‘And they worked it out?’
‘Yeah. They went ballistic,’ Sirius shrugged. ‘I let them think we’re actually friends with her... If they’re going to be angry with me anyway, I may as well have some fun with it.’
James shifted uncomfortably, and let his essay float to the floor. ‘D’you think Evans really hates -’
He was interrupted by Remus and Peter as they whirled past the fireplace, bombarding each other with stink pellets and the crumpled remains of their notebooks.
‘Take that, you malevolent old crone!’ shrieked Peter, hurling a stink pellet at Remus’s head. Remus ducked and threw a ball of parchment, which bounced off Peter’s chest.
‘Ha! How d’you like that, you interfering blood traitor?!’ Remus crowed.
Sirius raised his eyebrows at the display. ‘What are they up to?’
‘I think...’ said James, taking in the scene with a wry smile. ‘I think they’re playing Mrs Potter versus Mrs Black.’
It was not the far-reaching and pompous tone of the man’s voice, nor the howling reactions of Sirius’s fellow inmates that first alerted him to the presence of a visitor to Azkaban that morning. He was used to people striding past his cell, their eyes sliding from one side of the door to the other as if staring out at them was not Sirius Black, mass murderer ... as if they weren’t burning with curiosity and fighting the urge to stare. The presence of a human visitor to the prison generally created a stir amongst those inmates sane enough to notice, but Sirius had never even entertained the idea of a visitor coming for him; in fact, he’d laughed when the officious little prison clerk had asked if he had any family who would be visiting, and pointed out that his dearest cousin Bellatrix lived only a few cells away. Sirius had long ago stopped watching the people passing his cell, few as they were, unable to stand the fascination and the fear he saw on their well-fed little faces. Unlike other inmates, he didn’t clutch at the bars and protest his innocence; when he’d come round from the catatonia of the first few months of imprisonment, he’d quickly realised that nobody cared whether he was innocent or not... they merely wanted to carry out their business and then get the hell away from that damned, desolate rock.
When he had heard the man’s unfamiliar voice, Sirius hadn’t looked up. But as a pair of gleaming black leather shoes hurried past his cell, something swept into the cell and he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. Summer, thought Sirius instinctively. Somehow, the faintest touch of warmth, the tiniest trace of green seemed to have been borne in on the material of the man’s pinstriped cloak. It was the most tantalising, beautiful, painful sensation. Sirius inhaled deeply, and sprang to his feet, ignoring the complaint from his knees at the sudden movement.
‘You,’ he croaked, his voice practically turned to rust. ‘You there...’
The man looked over his shoulder at Sirius, terror blooming on his ruddy face. On either side of him stood two large, uniformed men with expressionless faces; they glared at Sirius and one of them put a hand on the little man’s shoulder.
‘Sir, this way please.’
‘Wait!’ said Sirius, wrapping his hands around the iron bars. He could hear the other prisoners howling and screeching, but could think of nothing other than the hint of the outside world the man had somehow brought into that cursed place... he could not let this man sweep past him, had to have another lungful of the summer air bound up in the man’s cloak. The man hesitated, and turned to face Sirius. He didn’t look up at the prisoner’s face, but instead focused on the long fingers gripping the bars so tightly that they seemed to be keeping Sirius Black’s skeletal frame upright.
‘What is it?’ he snapped, his haughty demeanour belied by the quiver in his voice and the blood rushing to his face.
‘What...what month is it?’ asked Sirius, his eyes falling to the rolled up newspaper in the visitor’s hand.
‘July,’ the man answered quickly, before pausing. He stepped towards the cell, followed by the two big men. ‘1993, in case you were wondering.’
Sirius laughed, the sound cracking the air like a stick of chalk being snapped. ‘Thank you... It’s easy to lose count in here.’
The man nodded, as if he understood, but stopped suddenly as he apparently realised that he absolutely didn’t understand. ‘I suppose it must be.’
Sirius held his hand out through the bars, and smirked as the two men stepped forward aggressively; the pinstriped man gave a tiny shake of his head.
‘I’m Sirius. Sirius Black.’
‘I know,’ said the man, lifting his gaze to Sirius’s face. He did not take the proffered hand. ‘We’ve met before.’
Sirius let his hand drop to hang casually out of the cell, as if he habitually lounged around at the metal bars. He said nothing.
‘I was one of the first to arrive on the scene when you... when Pettigrew...’ The man stumbled over his words, seemingly lost in a memory. ‘...when you were arrested,’ he finished lamely.
‘Ah. Well, I have very little recollection of that day,’ said Sirius, nodding. His smile became somewhat fixed. ‘I’m sorry I don’t remember you.’
The man looked utterly perplexed; this wasn’t the Sirius Black of his memory, nor of his nightmares. This gaunt young man was polite, pleasant... even charming. The visitor stared at the smiling inmate for a moment, and then drew himself up. ‘Right, well I’m afraid I must be on my way, Mr Black. I am touring the prison today and I have a lot I need to see.’
‘You’re touring Azkaban?’ asked Sirius, raising his eyebrows. ‘I can think of a few nicer places to go on holiday.’
Despite himself, the man almost chuckled. He had requested that the Dementors be kept away from the areas he was visiting, having had a funny turn on his last inspection of Azkaban, and he was grateful that he was able to carry out his business without the weight of despair that usually accompanied any proximity to a Dementor. He had not, however, expected to laugh at the joke of a murderer whose handiwork he had seen for himself, in all of its violent infamy. Suddenly, Cornelius Fudge wanted nothing more than to get far, far away from this charismatic prisoner with hungry eyes.
‘Must get on,’ he murmured, turning away.
‘Please-’ Sirius’s hand reached out once more. Fudge stopped, and looked back at the prisoner with obvious consternation. ‘ - I wonder, if you’ve finished with the newspaper, could I have it?’
Fudge was taken aback, and looked up at the uniformed men flanking him. One of them nodded, and Fudge held out the paper, eyeing Sirius suspiciously.
‘What d’you want it for?’ he asked.
Sirius’s hand wrapped around the newspaper; it felt wonderful. His fingers had not felt a texture other than metal, stone, rags and skin for what seemed like his entire life, but here was something new. The paper felt smooth, the ink was overwhelming in its promise; words! Excitement thrilled in Sirius’s heart and he felt for a second that it might kill him; he would have to calm himself down before the Dementors returned to their posts. Sirius looked up at Fudge with a smile cracking painfully across his face.
‘I like to do the crossword,’ he said happily, with only the slightest trace of sarcasm. ‘Keeps my mind sharp.’
‘Splendid,’ said Fudge, as he hurried away. He’d had enough of this man, who seemed far too normal compared to the wasted souls he’d seen inhabiting the surrounding cells. It was unsettling. ‘Splendid.’
After the Minister and his bodyguards had left, Sirius sank down onto the floor, his legs shaking with the exertion of standing for so long. He did, in fact, complete the crossword before reading anything else; he had kept his wits about him for so many years by working his way through each of the subjects he’d taken at Hogwarts and trying to remember everything he’d ever learned. He’d recalled the incantations and the charms he had cooked up with the boys whilst at school, retraced the long-lost Marauders Map so many times that he could recall each passageway with perfect clarity, and lingered for hours over the memories of magic he’d learned in the Order of the Phoenix. To mentally complete the crossword was a simple delight to Sirius. He then read the whole paper from cover to cover, the black printed letters both satiating and teasing him, whether they were part of an article on international wizarding law, or an advertisement for Quigley and Nibbs Quills (half price sale for a limited time only!).
It wasn’t until he read the paper for the third time that day that it happened. Sirius had not particularly lingered over an article headed, ‘MINISTRY OF MAGIC EMPLOYEE SCOOPS GRAND PRIZE’, preferring to read the next article, which was about Quidditch. Sirius had vaguely recalled the employee in question, Arthur Weasley; he had been married to one of the Prewetts and, of course, ‘Weasley’ was such an ancient, pure-blooded name that he’d known of the family his whole life. He’d merely glanced at the photograph accompanying the article to confirm that they were the couple he remembered; sure enough, their freckled faces were somewhat familiar to him, and he vaguely recalled them having had a very large family.
Of all of their children, Sirius’s eye had been drawn to a pair of identical twin boys, who reminded him strongly of their uncles Gideon and Fabian; they had the same mischievous look about them. Sirius had been so distracted by this similarity that he hadn’t seen him at first. When, on his third reading of the newspaper, his gaze lingered for a moment on a rather lanky boy in the same photo, he felt his stomach flip over. There, on the tall boy’s shoulder, sat a squat little rat, its whiskers twitching happily in the Egyptian sunlight. Sirius sat up straight, and pulled the paper close to his face. It couldn’t be. He stared at the boy’s pet rat, the tiny bubble of contentment he had made for himself that day becoming leaden and closing in on him as he struggled to catch his breath. It can’t be him. He looked at the photograph with a rising sense of panic. He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead. The rat was missing a toe on one of its front paws. No, no, no. There could be no mistake; Sirius would know that rat anywhere. It was fatter, more threadbare, but it was him.
‘Wormtail,’ Sirius whispered to himself, touching a shaking finger to the photograph. ‘Peter.’
Rage burst through Sirius’s veins like an electric shock. It coursed through him, sending him to his feet; he dropped the newspaper, threw his fists against the wall to stop himself from falling. He was aware of his knuckles fracturing, but the pain didn’t reach him. There was an unholy sound coming from somewhere nearby; some part of Sirius’s mind managed to register that the noise was coming from his own throat, a bleeding, guttural howl of pure fury. It had been painful enough to know that Peter had betrayed James and Lily, had killed innocent Muggles in his own suicide, had framed Sirius... but to see him now, not only alive but living life as a pet, fed and cared for and- Sirius snatched up the paper, pacing the tiny cell, and read again, ‘...the start of the new school year at Hogwarts, which five of the Weasley children currently attend.’ -the bastard was at Hogwarts. He was at Hogwarts, the home he’d shared with the very people he had betrayed. And Sirius was rotting, rotting and starving and lifeless here, in Wormtail’s place... begging for old newspapers, and wishing for death, and the only company he had was a memory of James. James.
Sirius made himself stand still, took a deep breath, did some calculations. The man in the pinstriped cloak had told him that it was now 1993... so, James and Lily’s son would be starting his third year soon. Harry. Little Harry. Sirius squinted at the freckled face of the boy with Wormtail on his shoulder. Although he was tall, he looked quite young, probably about the same age as Harry would be. Sirius hoped that the two boys didn’t know each other; he had just about held onto his sanity for all of these years, but the thought of Wormtail getting to see Harry grow up whilst Sirius mouldered in Azkaban... he could not even allow himself to imagine it... it surely would drive him mad... Sirius leaned heavily against the wall, and slid to the ground, numb with the rage and pain of this new betrayal. He remained there for days; eating, hearing, seeing nothing. He slept fitfully, and both waking and in dreams could repeat only three words: ‘He’s at Hogwarts.’
One night, he became aware that there was a figure sitting to his right, but still he said nothing. James often sat beside Sirius when he came close to the edge of madness, and often no words were necessary. Finally though, Sirius swallowed - his throat feeling as though he had swallowed glass - and whispered hoarsely, ‘I have to get out of here.’
‘If anyone can, it’d be you,’ replied James, quietly. Neither of them looked at each other. For the thousandth time, Sirius briefly questioned just how sane he could really be, if the only thing keeping him from madness was talking to his long-dead friend. ‘You know how you’d do it, don’t you?’
Of course Sirius knew. He’d long ago worked out how to escape from Azkaban, in his lucid hours spent observing, calculating; the Dementors seemed almost unable to detect him when he took on his dog-form on those cold winter nights. Even the glimmer of joy he felt at transforming into Padfoot was masked by their confusion. He could, really, have escaped years ago; he’d simply had no reason to try it before. The world outside had held nothing for him.
Sirius’s mind raced; all he would have to do was transform into the skinny form of the dog by stamping out that last shred of light and hope he had within him, and squeeze through the bars undetected. Transforming would be easy; he would recall the utter desolation of the night James and Lily had died, summon the pain he’d felt in his chest when he’d lost Belle, remember the loneliness of his life with his parents and Regulus. He would envisage James and Lily’s lifeless bodies; he could not allow his mind to turn to his godson, Harry, although he could hear the baby’s screams echoing down the years. A wave of anguish washed over Sirius and he put his head in his hands. If all that the outside world had ever done was take, take, take... might he not just be better off in Azkaban? It was hell, but it was a hell he knew. The only thing worse than despair was to have hope, and see it dashed.
‘Sirius,’ said James, ‘Look up.’ Sirius sighed deeply and raised his head from his hands. He was so weary, although his blood had been afire not a minute previously. ‘Look at the picture.’
Sirius obeyed; he picked the newspaper up from the floor, where it had lain for days, and looked again at Wormtail, the beloved pet of an unsuspecting child. He felt sick.
‘I have to get out of here,’ Sirius said again. ‘I know where he is... I have to get to him.’
‘Then don’t let it overcome you,’ came a soft voice from his left. Lily leaned forward, her green eyes swimming before him. ‘You know what you have to do.’
‘I’m going to kill him,’ Sirius murmured, his fists clenching.
Lily shook her head, and placed a hand on Sirius’s shoulder. He could swear he almost felt her touch. 'No, Sirius. You’re going to prove your innocence.’
James’s voice came closer, and whispered in Sirius’s ear. ‘And then you can kill him or, better yet, have him thrown in here.’
‘Sirius...’ Lily spoke again. ‘Do it now.’
'Skywards' is dedicated to JChrissy, who is not only a great writer, but a fantastic reader and a great friend. She makes HPFF the great place it is, for me. And she luuuurves Sirius.
A few characters belong to JChrissy (see her work, Before They Fall): Margaret Blackbourne, Belle, and Alice Longbottom's maiden name, Christopherson.
I have also used Jami's idea on how Animagi transform (thinking of the best and worst things about being human) because it's just genius.
The two lines from The Daily Prophet are from 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' by J.K. Rowling, UK Special Edition, p.12.:
"‘MINISTRY OF MAGIC EMPLOYEE SCOOPS GRAND PRIZE’" and "‘...the start of the new school year at Hogwarts, which five of the Weasley children currently attend.’"
This story is to be continued... Chapter two is ready and waiting! Please do leave 'Skywards' a review, I appreciate any and all words you may have for me!