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Sirius Black raced through the streets of Godric’s Hollow, arriving quickly at his destination. What was going on, he didn’t exactly know, but James had said it was urgent. A sinking feeling filled the man’s stomach as he walked to the front door of the Potters’ house. He hoped whatever his friend had to tell him wasn’t something concerning Lily. James would be crushed if anything ever happened to his wife, and Sirius couldn’t stand thinking of the hell his best mate would have to go through if he was to move on from losing her.
Not that Sirius actually knew she was gone, he reminded himself. But it was unnerving; Lily Potter hadn’t been seen by anyone - except for James, apparently - in months. No one knew why, and James refused to say anything about it, other than that Lily was ‘fine’. Concern for the redheaded witch was greatly relieved, however, when Albus Dumbledore confirmed that Mrs. Potter was indeed alive and well.
But that didn’t stop Sirius from worrying that more was going on with the couple than his best mate was letting on. If only he knew how right he was. . .
Pulling over on the side of the street, Sirius Black made his way nervously to the Potter’s front door. James must have watched him arrive, because he greeted his friend before Sirius had made it halfway up the walkway. James looked. . . tired. There was no other way Padfoot could think to describe it. So many emotions were present on the bespectacled man’s face that Sirius couldn’t make out one.
“Come on, come on,” James ushered him into the house, and closed the door with a click indicating that the locks - both magical and Muggle - had been re-secured. Not understanding what was going on or what was compelling James Potter to act so nervous, and even worried, Sirius silently followed him through the house.
James led him to the master bedroom; standing in the doorway, Sirius saw Lily Evans (now Potter) sitting on the bed, holding something close to her.
“Hey,” Sirius said, wondering if the blankets in her arms could contain what he thought they did.
Her emerald eyes flicked to his face only for a moment before gazing lovingly back down at her bundle. “Hi,” she said softly, so as not to disturb the precious thing she held.
James ushered Sirius closer to the bed, his eyes also transfixed on what his wife held. “Sirius, meet my son.”
“Your- your son?”
The proud father nodded, reaching over to gently tickle the baby’s stomach. He carefully took the infant from his mother and placed him in Sirius’ arms. “Watch his head.”
Sirius’ only response was a slight nod as he carefully adjusted his hold on the baby. He had already fallen in love with the beautiful baby boy. “Hey, little guy. I’m your Uncle Padfoot. I’m gonna teach you all sorts of pranks, so you can drive your parents insane, yeah.” His words were soft so as not to startle the child he gently bounced in his arms. “He has your eyes,” he said to Lily as the baby’s curious orbs searched his smiling face. It was true; the infant’s eyes were the same startling green, the prefect mirror of his mother’s. The baby’s small tuft of dark hair even stood up in every and all directions, just like his father’s.
Before anyone could say another word, an old man with long, silver hair and beard stepped into the room. From behind half moon spectacles, his blue eyes sparkled as he observed the scene before him. “I take it you still need some time then?” he asked with a knowing smile.
Sirius looked up from the bundle he was holding. “Time for what? Prongs, what’s going on here?”
James looked around, first at his wife whose breathing had turned deep, then to Albus Dumbledore who had taken a sudden interest with the ceiling corner of the bedroom, and finally to his best mate who was still holding his son.
With a deep breath, he began to say what he had rehearsed over and over in his mind, waiting for this moment, but never finding an easier way to say it. “When we first knew Lily was pregnant… we wanted to keep it a secret, you know, so she wouldn’t be targeted for the baby. We only told Dumbledore so she wouldn’t be asked to do anything dangerous for the Order or anything.
We were going to tell you guys once she was showing, but then Dumbledore told us about the Prophecy.” He drew a shaky breath before repeating what had plagued him for months now. “The Prophecy says that a child will be born at the end of July to parents who have defied Voldemort three times. That child would be marked by Voldemort ‘as his equal’, and there was something about having ‘powers the Dark Lord knows not’ and… and that one would have to kill the other, for ‘neither can live while the other survives’.”
By the time James was finished, Lily was silently crying into her hands while James himself struggled not to break down with her.
Sirius was in shock as he looked down at the innocent newborn in his arms. Was James seriously suggesting this child – this child – would one day have to kill or become a victim of murder? He knew Lily and James had defied Voldemort three times together; he himself had been there with them… but July… “It’s August,” he said in disbelief. How could James, Lily, Dumbledore, think the Prophecy referred to this baby if it was August?
“He was born a week ago, Sirius, July thirty-first. Just before mi-midnight.” Lily broke down again, crying harder even as James put his arms around her. “Let me hold him,” she choked out through her sobs, holding her arms out to where her baby was.
Sirius nodded numbly, handing the infant to his mother. “But, I. . . I don’t understand. . .”
“We- we can’t risk Vol-Voldemort coming after him; he might not want to the chance that- that we changed the date of birth.”
“I still don’t understand.” And Sirius didn’t, even after what Lily said; how many times the Potters had defied Voldemort was known to the Dark Lord, but the day their child was born on was not. What more could be done to convince Lord Voldemort the Prophecy did not refer to the Potters’ son?
“Sirius. . . Voldemort can’t know that we’re his parents.” James had held himself together magnificently all things considered, but saying these words broke him. “We can’t raise him.” James lowered himself on the bed next to his family, silent tears falling down his face. “You need to.”
“Wh-what?” He must have heard wrong. How could he, Sirius, raising this child make any difference? “But how will that help? I defied Voldemort three times too. . .”
“On the contrary, Mr. Black.”
Sirius jumped. He had been so wrapped up in what James was saying that he had forgotten the old Headmaster was still in the room. “But, sir. . . I was there with Lily and James. . . There were only three times.”
“Three times after you left Hogwarts, yes; but one time before.”
“But- but when?”
“Do you remember when you left your family’s home for Mr. Potter’s?”
Sirius didn’t bother to correct Dumbledore that the ‘home’ he left wasn’t his family’s. “Yeah; I was only going against my—family though, not defying Voldemort.”
“I assure you, Sirius, you did defy Voldemort that day, and he knows it.”
Sirius sat on a piece of furniture – he wasn’t really sure which one – deep in thought. “I still don’t understand what you’re saying though. Why would I need to raise him?”
“We’ve planned it, everything. If you agree to it. . .” Lily’s words were much less shaky as she gently rocked the now-sleeping infant she held. “We wanted to have at least one week with him–” She drew a breath to try and calm herself further. “We thought that we could make Voldemort believe that our baby is really your son, Sirius, and that his mother was a Muggle who kept her identity secret from you. . . everyone. . . You defied him four times, and he wouldn’t think a Muggle could defy him at all, let along three times. When the baby was born wouldn’t matter, because his parents don’t match the description in the Prophecy. Voldemort will overlook him, hopefully.”
Sirius looked over at James, whose silent tears had begun to fall. He was speechless.
After a few moments of silence, he managed to get out, “How can you keep all this a secret, though? I mean-”
“Now that is why I am here,” Dumbledore answered. “Lily and James have asked me to perform a series of powerful memory charms on the three of you so that you will believe your story. Any memories I do alter, I will be able to reverse, when and if the time comes.”
“Are- but you guys. . . You can’t be serious!”
“No, you are,” James answered; a humorless attempt at a joke through an old pun.
“But why me? Why not Moony? He’d be able to raise a kid better than I would-”
“Sirius, please,” Lily spoke. “The story we’ve been working on, it’s not the kind of thing Remus would do. Voldemort would suspect something. . . and if we create an identity for the. . . for the mother. . . we could unknowingly be putting an unsuspecting Muggle at risk. This way. . . this way is safest for everyone. . . I’d do anything to keep my baby safe.” She finished in a new stream of tears, hugging her child close.
“Sirius, if you choose not to do this,” Dumbledore began, “you may, of course, walk out of here with only a slight alteration of your memory.”
“Yeah, mate, we aren’t going to force you to do this.” James’ voice held a hint of badly masked hope, hope that Sirius would choose to leave without agreeing to the plan, leaving James with his son. However, no matter how much James loved the boy and wanted the world to know the child was his, he knew that it would be impossible to keep his baby safe forever against Voldemort. As long as the Dark Lord knew of his child’s parentage, the infant was at risk, too much so for James to gamble with. No, he would not make his son more of a target to the most evil wizard of the age any more than he had to.
Sirius looked from James to Lily for longer than he could register, trying to make the right decision. He didn’t want to condemn this baby by agreeing to raise him, but wouldn’t the child be even more at risk if he were a high-priority target of Voldemort’s?
Slowly, he answered, “If- if you’re sure that. . . that this is safest for- for him.”
James looked down, trying to hide his tears as he gazed down at his son. Lily murmured her last words of love and goodbye to her child, holding him close and kissing him softly, before carefully handing him to James, then wiping the water from her eyes. It was the hardest thing she ever had to do.
James also held his son close, slowly walking towards Sirius. “I’ll always love you,” he said quietly, “please know that. . .” Planting a last kiss on the infant’s head, he forced himself to hand the baby to Sirius.
“Now, shall we begin?” Dumbledore asked, having recently stepped back inside the room, for he had exited when Sirius gave his answer.
Lily nodded sadly from the bed as James wrapped his arms around her.
Although his voice held none of the melancholy mood that had overtaken the room, no one could deny that the twinkle behind the old Headmaster’s eyes had gone out. Walking to where Sirius stood, Dumbledore placed the tip of his wand at the baby’s forehead.
“I thought the memory charms were only going on us,” Sirius said, rather alarmed. The baby was far too young to remember this moment in later life, and memory charms – even ones preformed correctly – could do permanent damage to such a young mind.
“This is not a memory charm,” Albus answered. Before the question could be asked, he continued, “This will change his appearance enough that he won’t be recognized as the Potters’ son.” The old wizard muttered a quick spell, and a soft glow was momentarily seen around the infant.
His eyes had become a lighter green, far lighter than Lily’s ever could have managed; and his hair became thicker, weighing down what was once thought to be impossible to tame locks.
“The spell will stay with him as he grows,” Dumbledore added. Turning to Lily and James, he said, “Is there anything else, before the memory charms are applied?”
Lily nodded, though she seemed unable to speak through her tears. James, trying to stay strong for the sake of his wife, spoke. “We’ve discussed this, and. . . we don’t. . . want to be able to have another child.”
His voice ended so low that Sirius had to strain to hear him, and he looked at his friend in shock. They had been trying so long for a child. . .
“At least not until the memory thing is reversed,” James went on.
“But. . . why?” Sirius asked, as Dumbledore nodded.
“I don’t want to feel like I’m replacing him. . . I can’t.” Lily was able to push back her tears long enough to answer. “I could never replace him.” But her last sentence brought them straight back.
Sirius nodded as well. He could see the problems another child would create if this took years before the baby had his real identity back.
“And Sirius?” Lily composed herself once more as James cried into her shoulder.
“Could you. . . I mean, would you. . . We were discussing names before this, and. . . would you call him. . . Harry James?”
The name wouldn’t give anything away; after all, James was more of a brother to Sirius than his ‘real’ brother ever was.
“Of course,” Sirius told her. Harry James Potter. . . no, Harry James Black.
“Now, are we ready to begin?” Dumbledore asked, as if reminding them of why they were there.
A collective nod, and Dumbledore began to cast the charms of the Potters’ request.
A/N: Chapter two; yay!
“So, Padfoot, what’d you need to come over here for tonight?” James Potter asked as his friend walked through the front door, carrying a small bundle with him.
“Prongs, look!” His voice portraying only the utmost joy, Sirius carefully held out the bundle for James to see.
James peered down into the soft, blue blanket; a tiny head crowned with thick, dark hair was that was exposed of the sleeping child that was wrapped in Sirius’ arms. “Sirius… is that a- a baby?”
Sirius nodded, smiling. “Yeah. He’s mine.”
He pulled the sleeping infant closer to himself, gently rocking him while he slept. “Mhmm, mine,” Sirius answered, gazing lovingly down at the boy. “I’m naming him after you though, if that’s alright.” He looked up quickly as he said this, watching his friend’s reaction.
“You’re calling him James?” James asked, taken aback.
“No, I’m calling him Harry. I want James to be his second name.”
Grinning widely, James clapped a hand on Sirius’ shoulder, careful not to jostle the baby it was supporting. “Thanks, mate.”
“There’s, ah, one more thing, though…”
“Anything, what?” James asked, now unable to take his eyes off of the child Sirius was holding.
“I, um, I want you and Lily to be his godparents. Incase anything, you know… happens.”
His hazel eyes peered over the rims of his glasses, meeting Sirius’ grey ones. “Of course,” James said with a smile. As his smile became a well-known grin, he added, “Now instead of waiting nine months for a kid, we can just off you and wala!”
Sirius’ expression, for the first time that night, lost the happiness and pride James had never seen before. “Oh, man. Prongs, I’m sorry. I didn’t think…” He trailed off.
Giving him a look of confusion, James asked, “What are you on about?”
“Lily… Is she…? I mean, I know she was sick and everything…”
James’ face became one of realization and his mouth formed an ‘o’. “Yeah, she’s getting better though; been recovering on bedrest for the past couple of weeks. She’s not contagious or anything, and I’m sure she’ll want to meet her godson.”
Sirius nodded. “You had us all worried with what was going on with her, ya know, Prongs. You’ve been the only one who’s seen her for, what, six months now?”
“Yeah… Dumbledore’s stopped by a few times though; gave her some things she could do for the Order. It wasn’t too much, but I’m willing to bet it helped keep her from going insane.”
“Don’t doubt that, mate; I don’t think I could last six days holed up like that, let alone six months.”
James nodded this time.
“But I also meant, since, you know, you guys have been trying for awhile, and I just pop in here with a kid…”
James smiled sadly. “Yeah…” He paused for a moment. True he hadn’t thought much of it once he saw little Harry, but Lily… that was never far from Lily’s mind, not since their second scrape with Voldemort… “Don’t worry about it. Lily would be more upset if you don’t take her godson up to meet her.”
Padfoot grinned, and started his way up the familiar staircase and to a door, the plaque on which read ‘Prongs and Lily’, James directly behind him.
The two wizards went into the room, where Lily was sitting in a plush armchair under a tall lamp, reading a book.
“You should be in bed,” James told her with a slight grin.
“I was. I got bored.” She smiled over the top of her book, finished the sentence, and set it down on her lap. Lily looked fairly curious as she saw her husband’s face.
“You’re grinning like a maniac, love. Not one of your more charming expressions.”
That was when Lily noticed the other Marauder in the room. “Sirius!” Carelessly placing her book aside, she jumped up and hugged Sirius tightly.
Sirius subconsciously removed one arm from around his child and held it firmly in front of the sleeping baby to keep him from being squashed by his recently appointed godmother’s shocking action. Prongs must have missed something when he said Lily hadn’t gone insane. Lily had never greeted him this warmly before. Sirius had been under the impression the phrase ‘good to see you, Padfoot’ was not in her vocabulary. But, he reasoned, although he loved the man like a brother, six months with only being around James (and occasional minutes with Dumbledore) would probably make him grateful to see Snivellus. And that was saying something.
“Careful, Lils; wouldn’t want to squish your godson to death, would you?” James asked teasingly.
Lily looked over at him. “Godson?” Her emerald eyes traveled back to Sirius, and she noticed the bundle he held for the first time.
Sirius nodded enthusiastically, grinning widely, and carefully held out his baby for her to see.
However, unlike James, she didn’t erupt with undisputable happiness; she bit her lip, obviously thinking something over.
“Sirius… why didn’t you tell us about your… his mother being pregnant?”
“I didn’t know myself until a few hours ago.”
Cautiously, Lily questioned, “Are you… are you sure that this is your baby, then?”
Sirius looked as though she had sprouted another head. “Of course he’s my baby! Why wouldn’t he be?”
“Well…” Lily thought carefully, not wanting to arouse the temper of Sirius Black on such a delicate subject. “Who’s his mother?”
“Don’t know, actually,” Sirius answered, as though it were common not to know who the mother of your own child was. “Her name wasn’t even on the birth certificate.”
“So you adopted him?”
Sirius looked at her with bewilderment written all over his face. “Why the hell would I go out and adopt a baby?”
“Lily, do you really think Sirius would be so stupid as to not double-check when a baby he knew nothing about suddenly pops up into his life that the baby was actually his?”
“Yeah, really, Lily; the WCS found me through Dumbledore. He wouldn’t make a mistake like that.”
Lily nodded, trying not to show the feeling of jealously that had begun to bubble in the pit of her stomach. She wanted a baby of her own for years, but now, Sirius was the one who had a child. She knew James would make a better father than Sirius ever could, and she knew she would certainly be a better mother than a woman who appeared to want nothing to do with her baby and left him in the hands of Sirius Black. She mentally snorted. Sirius Black single-handedly raising a child. That was a disaster in the making. Outwardly, though, she smiled. “So, this is my godson?”
“Yup,” Sirius answered, any sense of hostility that was beginning to erupt within him against the woman accusing Harry of not being his quickly evaporating. “Lily, meet Harry James Black,” he said proudly.
For the first time, Lily took a good look at the baby Sirius held and felt her heart melt. “Oh, Sirius…” He carefully placed Harry in her arms. “I never thought you could… What I mean is, I never would have guessed…” What she really meant was that she thought the baby was far too sweet and innocent to belong to someone like Sirius, but she didn’t complete voicing her thoughts, figuring that sooner or later, the boy’s father would take care of that. “He’s beautiful,” she finally settled on saying.
James nodded. “I wanna hold him now. He’s my godson, after all.”
“He’s my godson too, James.”
“Hey, let’s not forget that he’s my son.”
“You already got to hold him.”
“Only for a few hours. Give me my baby.”
“He’s been alive for a few hours, hasn’t he?”
Lily rolled her eyes.
“No, he was born a week ago. Now give him back.”
“I haven’t held him at all yet!” James all but shouted, earning a harsh glare from each his wife and best mate.
“You’ll wake him up!” Lily quietly scolded.
“Let me hold him,” James insisted.
Lily gently brushed the dark bangs off the baby’s face and handed him to James.
“Don’t drop him,” Sirius stated blandly, starting to feel upset that he now had to share his son with the boy’s godparents.
“I’m not going to drop him, Padfoot,” James replied, rolling his eyes.
As he said this, the tiny baby slowly opened his light green eyes, looking up at the smiling people who surrounded him.
“Hey, Harry,” a soft voice said to him.
A moment later, a sniffing noise was heard. “Merlin! What’s that smell?”
Lily looked at Sirius in disbelief. “You mean you don’t know?” she asked, glancing pointedly at Harry.
“Oh, oh… right…” He looked around, as if searching for a button he could press that would magically change the baby’s diaper.
“Sirius, where are the clean nappies?” Lily asked, as James handed Sirius’ son back to him.
“You didn’t bring nappies?”
“No. No I didn’t.”
“What about bottles?”
“Slipped my mind.”
“Sirius, do you even own formula and nappies?”
“Crap,” Sirius said, after a moment’s hesitation.
Baby Harry started to cry.
“Oh, Harry. Shh…” Sirius tried to sooth his crying infant. “It’s alright, Harry.”
“No, it’s not ‘alright’, Sirius,” Lily told him. “You need to get a clean diaper on that baby.”
“I, um, I have to…”
“Here,” Lily said, her tone becoming much kinder. “Give him to me, you go get diapers and everything else Harry needs.”
“Won’t that take too long?”
“No, I’m sure I have enough to change his nappy once. And if not, there’s always a wand.”
Sirius nodded. He held the infant up to him. “Okay, Harry. Daddy’s got to go a bit, but I’ll be back soon, all right? You be good for Aunt Lily now, you hear?” He kissed the top of his son’s head. “I love you, Harry.” He hugged the sobbing baby one more time before handing him to Lily and heading to the door with James. Sirius turned around for one more look at his son and waved good-bye, with one thought going through his mind: If it was this hard leaving to go to the store, what would Harry going to Hogwarts feel like? It was a good thing for him that James decided to come, because once they set foot in the store, Sirius had no recollection of why he needed to be there. That and the fact that Sirius had been awfully distracted by the hot, young female sales clerk who offered him a flirtatious smile. But James quickly reminded him that however much he loved Harry, there was no way in hell he was ready for another one if he couldn’t recall why he needed to buy nappies; and that his dating life was over if he expected to be a full-time dad.
Lily carefully carried the baby, her godson, up the stairway to the attic. It didn’t take her long to locate a box of her own baby things, including some of the cloth diapers her mother had kept for her. Taking a couple with her, Lily went back into her bedroom and laid Harry on the bed. Summoning baby powder and banishing the dirty diaper to the rubbish bin (after placing a strong anti-odor spell on it), Lily tenderly changed her godson’s diaper (with some help from her wand), humming to herself and little Harry as she did, not knowing if she was trying to forget or remember that Harry wasn’t her son.
Once she was finished, Harry had stopped crying and was peacefully listening to the soft song his godmother was humming. He giggled when she tickled his tummy, and then she carried him downstairs, where she saw James and Sirius step through the front door, laden with shopping bags of baby things for Harry.
Upon entering, Sirius immediately placed (and not too gently) everything he was carrying on the floor and went over to Lily and Harry.
He took Harry from Lily and kissed his tiny forehead. “Hey, kiddo. Smelling much better now, I see. Were you good for Aunt Lily? I missed you, Harry.”
Harry started to cry again. Sirius looked up in horror. “What did I do?”
“I doubt you ‘did’ anything Sirius, he’s probably hungry. Did you get him formula?”
“Oh, right, yeah.” Sirius gave a weak chuckle, relieved he hadn’t been the reason his son started to cry.
He handed Harry to James and made up a bottle, Lily discreetly watching him as he did so; truthfully, she was rather worried at how Sirius would fare as a single parent. Worried for her godson more than Sirius.
He heated the bottle with his wand, and took his son back.
“Sirius! You can’t just give it to him, you have to make sure it isn’t going to burn him first!” Lily lightly scolded.
“I used my wand; it’s fine,” he told her.
“Sirius, trust me on this, it still might be too hot for him.”
“Oh?” Sirius answered, not really paying much attention to where the conversation was going.
“Yes, I know about these things, and you obviously don’t.”
That hit a nerve. Of course he didn’t know everything about parenting! His own parents never cared enough to bother to set an example of what a good, loving parent would be; all he had to go on was basic ‘general knowledge’ of baby care he had picked up when dating a pregnant woman once a nearly three years ago. And Harry was his first kid; how could he be expected to know everything he needed to do all the time?
“You positive you do?” Sirius shot back. “It’s not like you have any experience to build on.”
Lily stared at him open-mouthed. Feeling tears begin to build behind her eyes, she refused to let them fall. “How dare you,” she nearly snarled. She looked as though she wanted to slap him; but she hadn’t lost so much self control that she would hit Sirius while he held Harry. “How dare you,” Lily repeated before turning around and heading back upstairs to hide her unwelcome tears, the hand that was not on the banister clenched in a tight fist.
“Padfoot…” James said after a moment of silence.
Sirius looked at James, clearly upset with what he had said. “I… I didn’t mean to…” His throat suddenly felt very dry. “I didn’t mean to say that.”
“I know, mate,” James said softly. “I’ll go talk to her.”
Sirius nodded mutely, before looking back down at his son. Realizing he still hadn’t feed Harry, he tested the temperature of the liquid in the bottle before holding it to Harry’s mouth.
A/N: WCS is the Wizard Child Services. Feedback welcome! Thanks for reading!
Lily sat on the edge of her bed, a pillow clutched tightly to her, and her knees drawn up. She didn’t look up when the door opened and James entered.
“What was that?” he asked.
“What was what?” she answered dryly.
“That. Downstairs. With Sirius.”
“That was my normal reaction to the man.”
James stepped closer, leaning casually against the bedpost. “You know what I mean. I’ll admit that he shouldn’t have said what he did, but you shouldn’t have either.”
Lily scowled at him.
“No, really. I know he’s not the most responsible person in the world. . . Believe me, I know,” James said, thinking back to all the times Padfoot’s immaturity landed at least half of the Marauders in detention. “But you gotta agree, he is trying. I haven’t seen him this excited about. . . anything since him, me, and Peter became Animagi.
“You should be happy,” he finished after a pause.
“Happy about what?” Lily asked, feeling the tears begin to build up again. “That we’ve already started replacing our child with one that’s not even ours?”
James inhaled as he realized what this was really all about. Slowly, he sat down next to his wife, and placed a gentle, comforting hand on her knee. “It wasn’t your fault.”
Downstairs, Sirius was still feeding Harry when the fireplace erupted in green flames.
“James?” a familiar voice called throughout the house. “Prongs, are you in?”
Looking down at Harry, Sirius smiled and walked to the fireplace. “Moony! Get over here!” he excitedly told the head of his fellow Marauder.
Appearing only slightly surprised that Sirius was at the Potters’, Remus Lupin nodded and his head disappeared. The next moment, he was standing in the living room next to Padfoot.
Grinning like a madman, Sirius said, “Remus, meet Harry.” and held out the still eating infant for Moony to see. “Harry, this is your Uncle Moony.”
Remus’ face was filled with affection as he carefully took the child into his own arms. “Harry, eh?”
Sirius nodded. “Harry James.”
“So Lily was pregnant then,” he said, nodding slightly, and not taking his eyes off the beautiful child.
“Lily?” Sirius said with surprise. “Moony, Harry’s mine.”
Remus looked up, question clearly in his amber eyes.
“Why is everyone finding this so hard to believe?!”
“It’s not that I don’t believe you,” Remus said slowly, trying to think of the right thing to say next. “It’s just. . . surprising, is all. You usually want nothing to do with responsibility, and, well. . .” He indicated the baby. “This is the biggest responsibility you’ll ever have.”
Sirius raised a skeptic eyebrow to his friend’s reasoning.
Changing the subject, Remus asked, “So who’s the mother?”
“Haven’t the foggiest.”
“You mean you don’t know?” Moony questioned indignantly.
“That’s what I just said, wasn’t it?” Sirius stated under his breath, knowing the question was meant to be rhetorical and that his werewolf friend wasn’t done.
“How could you be so shallow as to not even know the name of a woman you slept with?! And knocked up, no less!”
Sirius didn’t feel that the best thing to point out was that most of the woman he couldn’t remember sleeping with he didn’t actually go-to-sleep sleep with. “Well excuse me for not seeing the importance of remembering the name of each of my past girlfriends,” he said, staring pointedly at Remus. “Most of which I doubt I’ll ever be seeing again anyways.”
“Unlike you, Sirius, I don’t sleep with every woman I date. And I hardly classify a woman you had a one night stand with as a girlfriend. But to be fair,” Remus continued, “I’m positive James and Peter remember the names of everyone they’ve ever gone out with.”
Sirius snorted. “Lily’s the only one James ever dated; and as for Wormtail, he couldn’t get a date with a female rat, let alone a human. Unless it was his mother,” he added as an afterthought.
“Hey, Moony,” James said cheerfully, heading down the stairs with Lily behind him.
It had been about two years since the Marauders graduated from Hogwarts, and exactly one year since James and Lily had become Mr. and Mrs.
Although there were no breaks from war, they did what they could to get one on this day.
Lily, entering her sixth month of pregnancy, slowly stood and withdrew her wand when the screaming started. James was instantly at her side, and they, Sirius, Remus, and Peter Pettigrew began working their way through the crowd of battling Death Eaters, Ministry members, and Order members; most civilians watched in horror and fear, screaming for loved ones. The Marauders and Lily threw hexes and spells at Death Eaters as they passed by, but didn’t stay to outright duel in this unforeseen attack.
The five had been unbelievably thrilled when they found out about Lily’s pregnancy, and then and there decided that their primary concern was, and always would be, the baby Lily was carrying. Now, in the middle of a raging battle, they weren’t going to stick around to put Lily and her baby at unnecessary risk.
They were almost out of Diagon Alley when Lord Voldemort showed up.
The Death Eaters continued their onslaught with a renewed vigor, and a well-placed spell from one of them scattered the five-some.
Lily fell to the ground, dropping her wand so her hands could prevent her from falling on her stomach, possibly injuring her unborn child, the child whom they had all felt kick for the first time just a few weeks ago.
Voldemort saw this, and with a sick grin, shot a powerful Cruciatus Curse at the pregnant Mrs. Potter.
Screaming, Lily collapsed completely as hot knives seemed to pierce her flesh over and over, twisting her insides as they plunged in and out of every inch of her skin.
As suddenly as it had begun, it stopped. James had thrown a powerful shield charm in front of her, and although it didn’t last too long, it had done its job.
Voldemort laughed evilly as he turned his attention to James instead. He might have said something, but Lily couldn’t tell; she was in too much pain.
James might have lost the duel, had Remus and Sirius not been able to get to him in time to join in. Peter, on the other hand, knew he would not be as much help as his friends in a duel, and went to aid Lily instead. As carefully as he could, Peter pulled Lily into a sitting position and held her shaking body.
Thankfully for all of them, Dumbledore arrived soon afterwards, and what happened next was a blur of color and sound. Lily almost immediately found herself standing in James’ arms, with blood covering the lower half of her body. As if in a trance, she wiped a hand at it, willing it to disappear. But when the warm, sticky substance colored her hand blood red, she screamed again, shaking uncontrollably.
A look of wide-eyed horror from James, a Portkey from Albus, and the Potters were in St. Mungo’s.
It was soon confirmed to them that the Cruciatus Curse had cost them their baby.
The pain Lily had felt while under the curse now seemed like nothing. She had dropped her wand. If she had kept a tighter hold on it, maybe she could have defended herself. Maybe her baby wouldn’t be. . . Because of her carelessness, her first child would never be born.
It took her a few days to register the truth behind the Healer’s next words: That due to the damage inflicted by Voldemort, the possibility of her conceiving again was ‘highly unlikely’. They way in which it was said, however, gave James reason to believe what the Healer really should have told them was that the possibility was ‘near impossible’.
James didn’t blame Lily, who insisted that she should have fallen on a fist, wand still at hand, rather than on her open palm; neither did anyone else. Only Lily blamed herself.
For the next two years, the Potters had tried for a baby, but it looked like Voldemort’s spell had taken away not only the child they almost had, but also any possible children they might have had.
James never blamed Lily for what happened, and he often told her she had to stop blaming herself. For the first time, she was starting to believe him.
“Lily?” James said, gently brushing a stray piece of fiery hair back off her face. “You alright?”
Lily met his concerned eyes and smiled. “Yeah.” Tossing the pillow aside, she stood up and headed out of the room, James with her.
“Hey, Moony,” James greeted, coming down the stairs to find Sirius in the living room with Remus.
“Hey, Prongs,” Remus said, glancing up from the baby he was holding. “Good to finally see you, Lily.”
“You too, Remus,” she said, placing a hand on his arm and a kiss on his cheek.
“Feeling better?” he prompted.
She nodded. “Much.” Lily released Remus’ arm after giving it a light squeeze and approached Sirius. “Sirius. . . could I speak with you?”
Sirius nodded, feeling his throat begin to dry up. “Yeah. . . yeah, sure.” He glanced at Harry one more time before following her out of the room.
Alone in the kitchen with steaming mugs of tea in front of them, Lily and Sirius said in awkward silence.
“Sirius, I’m sorry.”
Whatever the Animagus had been expecting her say, that hadn’t been it. Lily rarely apologized to anyone; she rarely had reason to. And apologizing now to Sirius Black, no less.
“What I said to you before was out of line. What I’ve seen between you and Harry, even just in these past few hours, was, well. . . shocking. You’re not trying to shy away from your responsibilities with him, you’re living up to them; and you’re taking parenthood more seriously than I’ve ever seen you take anything. I honestly think you’ll make a good dad.” She smiled at him. “I’m proud of you, Sirius.”
Sirius’ expression was nothing short of flabbergasted. Lily Evans-Potter, proud of him?! He could hardly believe it.
Her words slowly sank in. She really thought he’d make a good father! Somehow, those words meant more coming from her than they would have from James. He and James were, in every way that mattered, brothers, and Sirius knew that James would think he’d make a good dad even before he brought Harry over. Or he would at least pretend to think Sirius would be a good father and help him along until he actually was. But Lily, she was almost as critical of him as his pureblood obsessed, Muggle hating mother. Somehow Lily’s, was it actually praise?, renewed Sirius’ belief in himself that he could, and would, raise this child well.
He smiled back. “Thanks,” was what he finally settled on saying, not being able to think of a better response. But Lily understood what hearing those words from her meant to him.
“I’m sorry too,” he finally thought to force out.
But Lily only shook her head. “I had that coming.”
From the living room, Lily and Sirius heard the familiar whoosh! of the fireplace, then James’ voice say, “Look, Wormtail! Padfoot has a kid!”
An excited squeal soon followed, and a chubby man with watery blue eyes poked his head in the kitchen door. “Congratulations, Padfoot!” Peter squeaked.
“Thanks, mate,” Sirius said, realized that that had been the first time any of his friends had said that to him.
Taking the recently burped Harry from his Uncle Moony, Sirius gently rocked him to sleep in his arms, hoping it wasn’t always going to be as hard to have his son out of his sight. It wasn’t that he didn’t truth Prongs and Moony, he trusted them with his life!, but he didn’t trust the Death Eaters. And with the Marauders as high up on Voldemort’s hit list as they were, an attack was always impending.
After all, in the past four months, there had been three attacks on heavily protected houses of Order of the Phoenix members (an organization of which each Marauder and Lily belonged to), and everyone in the houses had been ruthlessly, brutally slaughtered. Sirius wasn’t going to try and fool himself into believing he and Harry wouldn’t be next, not when they very well could be.
Voldemort wouldn’t stop making war until he either won or was defeated, he wouldn’t give his opponents a slight break, even for something as wonderful as Harry; and since the Marauders almost always had to look over their shoulders to stay one step ahead of the Dark Lord (not to mention alive), Harry would, sooner or later, have to learn to follow that habit.
Sirius would take no chances with that maniac killer still on the loose and able to hurt his son.
A/N: Kind of short chapter compared to the others, I know. The next one will be longer. In the next chapter, does anyone want it to be more of when Harry’s still a baby, or should I skip ahead a couple of years? Either way I have no problem with, and I can’t decide.
Oh, and just for clarification (since I’m not sure if it came out the way it was supposed to or not), this is NOT going to be a Lily/anyone-other-than-James fic.
Any questions I may have unknowingly created about this story, please ask. And thanks for all the great reviews, everyone! (If nothing else, they’ve helped me keep interest in writing my own story.)
Next chapter should be up sometime within the next few days, depending on whether it’s the current time or a couple years in the future.
Thanks for reading!
A/N: Since about the same number of people asked for baby as toddler (this story is posted on another site too), this is going to be the last baby Harry chapter. Also, this chapter has not been betaed (actually, I think most of this story hasn’t been betaed. . . is that even a word? anyway), so please tell me if you find anything in this chapter extremely confusing so I can try to make it easier to understand.
Harry’s First Word
Sirius Black tiredly shuffled into the large room. With one arm, he held his soon to be six month old son; and with the other, he dragged a would-be-heavy-if-not-for-the-feather-light-charm baby bag. Once he reached the large table in the center of the room where the meeting would take place, Sirius let himself fall into a chair next to James, and placed Harry on the table in front of him.
“Mate, you don’t look too good.”
Sirius snorted. Upon closer inspection, James had been able to see the dark bags under Padfoot’s eyes; eyes that held a small bit of red on the white surrounding the grey. Needless to say, Sirius could not remember the last time he had a good, full night’s rest since getting Harry. Not that it mattered; Sirius would choose Harry over sleep any day. . . he was already doing so.
(For now, though, Sirius was just glad he didn’t have a job to worry about. He had handed in his resignation to the Auror department shortly after having Harry; during his short time as an Auror, he had been sent on more than one last minute notice missions that lasted over a week, and he wasn’t willing to do that now that he had Harry to look after. Besides, he wouldn’t be much help on a mission if he could only think about his son, and Sirius was fairly certain he would go insane if he was without Harry for too long.
Also, being the last Black, he had come into a rather large inheritance when his mother died a few months prior; and although it was enough to last both he and Harry well past his son’s Hogwarts years, and Sirius knew his life would get pretty boring once Harry went off to school if he didn’t have job to distract him from the boredom. . . and heartache; right now though, he was just glad Harry could be, in addition to his first concern, his only concern. Well, besides the Order.)
With a failed attempt to stifle a wide yawn, Sirius reached down into the baby bag while trying to keep his drooping eyes focused on Dumbledore for the beginning of the Order of the Phoenix meeting. Getting frustrated that he couldn’t find the objet he was looking for, Padfoot seized the bag up into his lap to continue his search.
“Whatever you’re doing for that baby, do you think it could wait until after the meeting, Black?” Mad-Eye Moody asked not too pleasantly, his magical eye searching the bag Sirius held. Whether it was for the same thing Sirius may be looking for or some undetected threat, no one bother to find out.
“It’s not for him,” Sirius spat back, finding the object at last. Plopping the bag back to the floor, he pulled up a small, light blue pillow with ‘Sleepy Head’ stitched onto it. He dropped it to the table and let his head fall atop it.
Harry immediately busied himself by playing with his father’s long, tangled hair.
Remus raised a concerned eyebrow in Sirius’ direction as Dumbledore began to speak.
Not five minutes into the meeting, and Mad-Eye especially, was growing rather annoyed that someone present would not have the state of mind, or decency, to at least stay awake during a meeting Dumbledore had dubbed ‘of vital importance’. Sirius was soon woken from the light slumber he had drifted into by a harsh shout of “Constant Vigilance!”
Unfortunately, those two words also startled Harry, or rather, scared the poor child out of his mind; Harry’s father always made a point of trying not to shout around his small son (in other words, the only loud and unforeseen noises Harry was accustomed to were the ones he himself created. . . at all hours of the day). Having grown up himself in a house where he was often shouted at without real reason, Sirius didn’t want to subject his own son to the same thing, even if his shouts weren’t directed at Harry.
Upon hearing Harry’s frightened cries, Sirius (with a backwards ‘Sleepy Head’ lightly imprinted on the side of his face) instantly jumped up and, sending a glare in Moody’s direction, scooped up the startled infant in his arms, gently rocking and bouncing him, whispering softly in his ear. Once Harry had finally settled down, Sirius planted a light kiss on the side of his head then sat back down, Harry in his lap.
Turning to the witch he sat next to, Sirius asked, “How do you do it, Alice?”
Alice Longbottom chuckled. “I’m not a single parent, Sirius; that’s helped a great deal.”
She didn’t mean Sirius should find Harry a mother, and Sirius, understanding this, nodded. “Where is Neville?” he asked, suddenly realizing that the other Order baby wasn’t present. Harry usually enjoyed being around someone who could understand his baby-talk, and Sirius was pretty sure the Longbottom boy did too.
“Frank had to go on an assignment for the Ministry, Neville’s with his grandmother.”
Sirius nodded again. He was about to lean back in his chair, Harry held close on his lap, when he heard a small voice sound in his arms. Sirius looked down at his son; Harry looked up at his father and repeated the sound he just made.
Sirius sat gaping like a fish, eyes wide. A third ‘Dada’, and it all sank in.
“He said his first word,” Sirius whispered in awe, a fatherly pride glowing behind his eyes as his face broke out in grin. “He said ‘Dada’!” he nearly shouted, jumping up. Sirius held Harry close, spinning him around, almost dancing with glee. Harry giggled and his father was teary-eyed with happiness. “He called me ‘Dada’! HE’S SPEAKING! Harry’s talking!” The only word that could describe Sirius Black at that moment was positively giddy. After all, the man had been waiting months for his son to call him ‘Dada’, and now that Harry finally had, Order meeting or not, he would be damned if he let anyone disturb this for him.
Sirius completely ignored everyone else around him as a fresh wave of love poured from his eyes as he looked at his baby boy.
It took awhile, but it seemed that both father and son were able to calm down enough, or in Harry’s case, tire out enough, for Harry to dose off and Sirius to sit back down. Sirius leaned back in his chair, Harry snoozing against his daddy’s tummy, and found himself unable to ward off his own nap, even for something so important as this meeting.
James got the unfortunate duty of reaching over to pinch Sirius’ nose every time the Animagus began to snore too loudly for the liking of those around him.
Once the meeting was over, (Dumbledore told them of a Prophecy that had been made a little over a year ago concerning Lord Voldemort and someone who could defeat him, saying that one of the Dark Lord’s followers had overheard part of the Prophecy being made and Voldemort was now seeking the child spoken of in the Prophecy. Although it hadn’t been said, the way Alice received the information suggested that she knew of this prophecy, and that suspicions were it pointed to her child. However, Dumbledore gave a quick, odd glance to Harry as he told of the clues surrounding just who this child was, and, although James was pretty sure he was the only one who caught the look, he made him all the more glad his best mate had been asleep for this, even if Harry only fulfilled the ‘born at the end of July’ part. That wizard could be too overprotective for his own good at times.) Dumbledore and most of the members left, but some, including the Marauders, remained behind at Headquarters.
A foul odor reached the noses of a few, and Harry began to stir. Picking the baby up before he could wake his father from his much-needed nap, James handed his godson to Lily with a smirk-ish smile. She rolled her eyes, but grabbed the baby bag anyway and headed into another room to change the boy’s diaper as he softly started to whimper, getting ready for a full-out cry.
James stayed behind only long enough to use his wand to write ‘Sleepy Head’ across Sirius’ forehead. Then, as Remus and Peter watched with amusement, summon Harry’s pacifier and stick it Sirius’ mouth, just for good measure.
By that time, the smell Harry had been emitting was much less profound, so the three went to the other room with Lily, Harry, and a few other Order members; including Hagrid, who, in addition to thinking Harry was the most adorable thing he had ever seen (besides his Acromantula, Aragog, the existence of whom he accidentally let slip), expressed his amusement of having a Marauder’s son at Hogwarts in eleven years time.
Not long afterwards, Sirius woke up himself with a slight gag, and spit the pacifier into his hand.
How the hell did that get there? he thought to himself, letting his chair slip back onto all four legs with a small bang as he rubbed his eyes.
Oops. He looked to his lap, expecting to see a startled, and probably annoyed, Harry. Instead, there was nothing.
In fact, he seemed to be the only one present. . .
“Harry?” Sirius called out, cautiously, drawing his wand. If something had happened to Harry while he was asleep. . . Sirius didn’t think he could ever forgive himself. “Harry!”
“Dada!” Sirius heard from the next room. He breathed a sigh a relief as he heard this and James came in sight, carrying Harry, whose little arms were extended towards Sirius.
“Sorry ‘bout that, mate. You really needed the sleep though.”
Sirius nodded, taking Harry from his friend.
Smiling, and yawning, Sirius followed James into the adjoining room. He sat Harry down on a blanket next to some of his toys, then sat down himself to watch the small child play.
How he wished he had sat closer to the boy.
The door was blown in as half a dozen cloaked, hooded, and masked Death Eaters marched into the supposedly safe Headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix. Wands were drawn and a battle ensured. Sirius launched himself in Harry’s direction, but not quickly enough. One of the Death Eaters had grabbed his son.
Not knowing what else to do, unable to think of anything else, Sirius dropped his wand and fell to his knees.
“No! No, please! No!”
He couldn’t have attacked or disarmed the Death Eater without possibly hitting Harry instead; summoning charms didn’t work on people, and Sirius didn’t think that Harry’s clothes were secured enough to his body that a summoning charm on them would bring the child with them.
Sirius cried, panicking. Each of Harry’s terrified screams was a dagger through his heart. “I’ll do anything! Please!”
A sinister smirk showed from behind the mask. “Well, well, well, Black,” the Death Eater said, “times have changed, haven’t they?”
Sirius’ eyes widened in disbelief. No, this couldn’t be happening!
“Sniv— Snape. . .Please. . . He hasn’t done anything to you!” Sirius pleaded. “Harry’s a baby; he’s done nothing! Please!” Severus Snape was only toying around with Harry because of what his father had done to Snape at school, and Sirius knew it.
“On the contrary, Black, it’s more the fact that he exists.”
Sirius felt his heart racing, and he longed to be holding Harry all the more. He knew from where and why Snape had chosen his words.
Maybe, maybe, if he hadn’t been such a prat to Snape at Hogwarts; maybe if he and James had listened to Lily when she. . . James!
Sirius couldn’t help but risk a glance at the surrounding battle. Surely one of his friends must have seen what was transpiring right in front of him! Surely! They wouldn’t abandon Harry to become a Death Eater’s revenge; they would notice what was happening, they would help save his son from whatever fate Snape had in mind for him! They had to!
But help was nowhere to be found. Everyone was wrapped up in their own battles, fighting for their own lives. Sirius had always been able to hold his own in battle; they hadn’t seen him succumb to the opposite side only moments before.
No. . .
“Please. . .” Sirius begged, his words coming from his mouth as tears leaked from his eyes. But he hardly cared for his pride anymore.
“You gambled my life,” Snape told him. “Why should I not do the same with his?”
“Harry’s done nothing to you! I’ll do whatever you want! Please!” Hysterics were settling in even more as Snape withdrew a sharp knife from his black robes. Sirius could not mistake the intentions of the knife as it was brought closer to his son.
“Whatever I want? What do you think I want, Black?” he sneered, bringing the blade ever closer. “I want you and Potter to suffer; and I believe this is just the way to go about it.”
Sirius couldn’t think. This couldn’t be happening!
Snape raised the knife, ready to bring it down on the infant he held.
The small child’s father felt as though the blade had already pierced him.
Not fully understanding how it happened, Sirius launched himself forward to catch Harry before the baby hit the ground and pulled him away as the knife clanked harmlessly to the floor; its wielder fallen beside it.
Now Lily stood in front of Sirius; a fierce, fiery rage built up behind her eyes as she glared down at the man she had felled with her still-raised wand. Her emerald eyes softened, however, as she took in the scene of Sirius and Harry before her.
Sirius was clutching the small boy close to him as though his life depended on it, sobbing in obvious relief that the child was once again safe. The wizard noted nothing that surrounded him besides Harry, not his friends and not that the battle had ended.
He barely seemed to register James and Remus on either side of him, helping him to his feet and out the door to the apparition point; or Lily pocketing his fallen wand and following them out.
Before either Marauder could side-along with Padfoot, Lily picked up a pebble and created an illegal Portkey. They somehow got Sirius to grab onto it.
Sirius was sitting on a bed in a guestroom at the Potters’, staring blankly at the crib in which his sleeping son lay.
James sat next to his friend, and placed a supportive hand on his shoulder. When Sirius didn’t respond, Prongs withdrew the hand and spoke slowly about what happened in the battle that took place at the old Order Headquarters.
“There weren’t any fatalities,” he said.
Sirius only nodded. He didn’t seem to realize he was no longer at St. Mungo’s, where they had brought Harry immediately after the battle was over to ensure that the precious baby really was going to be alright.
“Well, not that we know of. . .” James trailed off. “Dearborn, we don’t know what happened to him. Dumbledore thinks they may have him alive. He just stepped out the door before the attack, so he might have gotten away too.”
“Any idea who it is?” Sirius asked, speaking for the first time since Lily had stunned Snape.
James shook his head. “Not really. . . Dumbledore thinks it was someone who stayed after the meeting was over. Doesn’t reckon Dearborn’s responsible, though.”
Sirius looked away from Harry for the first time since arriving. “But. . . that means. . .”
James nodded this time. “The only people still there were you, me, Lily, Moony, Wormtail, Hagrid, and Alice. Well, Harry too, but no one’s daft enough to think he’s the spy.”
“Spy. . .” Sirius repeated slowly. “Who do you think it is?”
“Honestly, I don’t know.” He sighed. “I know it wasn’t you, Lily, or me. I don’t believe Remus or Pete would betray us like that. There’s no way it could be Hagrid; the man’s too loyal to Dumbledore for his own good. And that leaves Alice, but I don’t think it was her either. Not with Voldemort looking to kill her kid and all.”
James took a slow breath. “I really hate saying this, Padfoot, but the most likely suspects are one of the Marauders.”
“We don’t betray our own, Prongs,” Sirius stated offhandedly, not really thinking about his own words.
“I know; I don’t think any of us would do that. . . I won’t think we did it. . . but, anyone else. . .”
“Well, we know it’s not me and we know it’s not you.”
“We know it’s not Lily, so that leaves Remus and Peter.”
“How are we ruling ourselves and Lily out, though?” James asked, beginning to feel like he and Sirius were back at school and they were mentally testing out all outcomes of an upcoming prank.
“Simple,” Sirius stated. “I’m pretty sure you and Lily would be able to see if each other was a Death Eater,” he said, wriggling his eyebrows suggestively.
James blushed, muttering a ‘stuff it’ as Sirius let out a bark-like laugh. Both knew all Death Eaters were visibly marked by Voldemort, even if they had yet to figure out how. The Order had no intelligence in the Ministry that would be able to gain access to that information. (It was suspected that with the number of dead and captured Death Eaters, the Ministry had long since found whatever this ‘mark’ was, but they were not releasing such information to the public; and even Dumbledore was having a hard time with it.)
“But what about you?” James asked, some of his blush still visible, trying to change the subject.
“I’ve got Harry.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?” It wasn’t that Prongs suspected Padfoot, he just couldn’t understand the other’s reasoning all the time.
“You know how I raise my Little Padfoot.”
“So I don’t know of one dark pureblood supremacist family who raises their kids like I do mine.”
James shrugged, offering a trademark Potter grin. “Fair point.” He didn’t want to suspect his best mate after all, and refused to unless Voldemort’s mark was pointed out to him somewhere on Sirius.
James saw a sad look entering Sirius’ eyes, and quickly brought his train of thought back to the topic of their discussion. “So how do we rule out Moony and Wormtail?”
“No idea, mate. We can’t very well accuse them of being Voldemort’s spy.”
“Yeah. . . It’s not like we can just start inspecting them, either. We don’t suspect them, I mean.”
Sirius nodded. “Wormy’s too frightened of his own shadow to even think about voluntarily approaching Voldemort; and Moony’s far too loyal to the whole ‘doing the right thing’ thing, even with all the crap the Ministry gives him for being a. . .” An odd look crossed the Marauder’s face. “Isn’t Voldemort gaining increased support from--”
“Don’t say it,” James said sharply. “Don’t you dare even think it, Sirius! Moony’s not the traitor; he wouldn’t sell us out like that! And especially not because of his furry little problem!”
Sirius sighed. “I don’t know what to think, Prongs.”
“It wasn’t Moony,” James insisted.
“James. . . do you think I can keep Harry safe?”
James startled, unsuspecting of this change in the conversation. “You’re doing all right so far.”
“No, I mean. . . with what happened. . . what if Lily hadn’t been there?”
“Sirius, we all saw; if Lily hadn’t gotten there, one of us would have. We’d never let anything happen to Harry, especially not you.”
“But I was just- just there! I let that bastard-”
“Sirius, you panicked. I would have too, if it was me in your place.”
“I should have done something, Prongs! I almost lost him because I didn’t! What if something like this happens again, and-”
“You won’t let it.”
“. . .Huh?”
“Think about it, mate; we’ve never been in detention for the same thing twice (quite an amazing feat, if I do say so myself, what with all the detentions we’ve managed to receive). We, you, don’t make the same mistake twice. I know you, Padfoot; you won’t panic again. Trust me.”
Sirius fought against the tears threatening to grow, rapidly blinking his grey eyes. “I just. . . If I lose him. . . I don’t know what I’ll do. I need him, James.”
“I know you do; that’s why I know you won’t panic the next time Harry’s in danger. If there even is a next time.”
“Dada,” a small said from the crib, bringing a soft, sad smile to Sirius’ face. “Dada!” Harry repeated when he noticed his father wasn’t instantly standing over the crib.
Sirius got off the bed and picked his child up. Smiling more brightly, he said, “You’re right.” never taking his eyes off of his son.
“Is the great James Potter ever not?” Prongs replied cheekily, causing Sirius to snort.
“Yeah, ‘great’ my arse.”
James feigned hurt. “You wound me, Mister Padfoot.”
“Shut up, Mister Prongs. Mister Padfoot believes it is now time for his nap.”
“Yeah, yeah; Mister Prongs would like to bid Mister Sleepy Head a good night,” James added the last bit under his breath.
“What?” Sirius asked, still oblivious to the writing James did on his forehead; the same writing he would fail to notice until the next time he stumbled tiredly into the bathroom.
Shrugging, Sirius lay down as James left the room, Harry curled up contentedly on his chest, to finally catch up on some of the sleep he had been deprived of over the past six months. At least until Harry began to cry as his nappy became disgustingly full.
Sirius nearly cried himself at that point, however grateful he was that his beloved son was still alive to make a mess of his diaper and cry. And to call him ‘Dada’, a thought that he knew would never fail to bring a smile to his face.
A/N: Next chapter will take place about a year and a half from now. It might take a bit longer to get posted though, with the beginning of school and everything. Thanks for reading!
A/N: Sorry it took so long to get this up. I will have the next chapter up sooner.
Harry had celebrated his second birthday - with his father, godparents, and Uncles Moony and Wormtail - just over a month ago. The toddler happily made his way (at four o’clock in the morning) to his father’s bedroom, where Sirius lay in a deep slumber.
Pushing open the door, Harry walked to his daddy’s bed and climbed up, kneeling next to his father’s chest.
“Daddy!” he whispered loudly.
Not getting any response, Harry tried again, a little louder. “Daddy!”
Padfoot’s only response was to whip the pluff pillow out from underneath his head and bring it down playfully over Harry’s head.
“Oof!” Harry’s bum landed on the mattress as he was pushed off his knees. Undaunted, the child shoved the pillow to the floor and climbed onto Sirius’ back.
“Daddy!” Harry said again, lightly shaking the man’s shoulder.
Sirius groaned. “Harry?” he asked groggily. He pushed himself up, causing Harry to slid off his back and back onto the bed. “What are you doing up at-” he checked the clock “-4:08?!”
Harry giggled as Sirius fell back onto his remaining pillow.
“Alright, alright, I’m getting up.” Sitting up for a second time to stretch his arms and yawn, Sirius stood (nearly tripping on the fallen pillow in the process) and scooped his son into his arms. He was shocked to feel the bare skin of Harry’s bottom. Holding the child out at arm’s length, he squinted in the darkness. “Harry. . .” he started, wondering if he really wanted to know, “where’s your diaper?”
Harry smiled proudly. “No need.”
“. . . ‘No need’? You mean you don’t need your diaper?”
Harry nodded and Sirius felt a sense of dread rising within him.
“Why, um, why wouldn’t you need your diaper, son?”
“Use potty. Like big boy,” Harry affirmed.
“Oh.” He nodded slightly, bringing the boy closer to him. “He used the potty,” Sirius muttered to himself.
Harry nodded, still smiling, and wrapped his arms around his daddy’s neck, resting his head against it.
“Harry,” Sirius said, kissing the boy’s thick, dark hair, “why don’t you show Daddy the toilet you used?” He placed Harry down.
“O.K.” The child pronounced the two letters with determined clarity.
After following Harry to a closed door the boy pointed at, Sirius gulped noisily. He really didn’t want to know what was behind that door if his son had attempted to use the toilet on his own, if his diapers were anything to judge by. He opened the door and hung tightly to the knob for support as he nearly passed out with what he saw, his face paling dramatically. Harry certainly had attempted to use the potty, he had just failed to get anything in it. And apparently, it was not from lack of trying.
Sirius looked from the small child, grinning happily up at him, back to the mess in the bathroom. That just wasn’t possible! No way could anyone Harry’s size do this! He doubted if someone Hagrid’s size could do all this. . .
He closed the door and gazed down at his smiling child.
He gulped. “Alright, Harry, let’s, uh, let’s go to your room, alright?”
Harry nodded and held up his arms, waiting to be picked up. Sirius complied and carried the toddler to his room, placing him on the changing table. Harry looked around, confused.
“Daddy, no need. . .”
After finishing up with the nappy, Sirius put his surprisingly tired boy back to bed and cast a silent charm to ensure that Harry couldn’t get the diaper off himself this time.
By the time he finished cleaning and disinfecting the bathroom (cleaning spells had never been Sirius’ specialty, so he was greatly relieved to see the mess was not as terrible as he had first thought it to be), Sirius wanted to go back to bed since it was still fairly early, but the sound of a door creaking open told Sirius sleepy-time would have to wait.
Even though Harry had only been asleep for an hour or so, the toddler was already wired up again. Sirius put on a smile for the sake of his son.
“Ready for breakfast, pup?”
The small child nodded enthusiastically and followed his father to the kitchen.
Sirius managed to make breakfast without any great incident - such as the food, or house, burning - but nearly fell asleep in his meal after getting Harry settled. He jumped wide awake, however, when an angry owl screeched in and pecked at his ear. Taking the Daily Prophet from the bird and paying it, Sirius allowed himself to sink back into his sleepy stupor as he gazed over the headlines. At least until one in particular caught his eye.
DARK MARK FOUND OVER LONGBOTTOM HOME
Skimming the article, Sirius set the paper down, heart racing. The wizard glanced over at his curious-looking toddler, with a stray bit of food left on the side of his mouth. Sirius picked up a napkin to wipe it off, mind still on the article.
“Hey, pup, you want to go visit Uncle James and Aunt Lily for a while?”
The child’s expression instantly brightened as he smiled and nodded.
After Flooing to the Potters’, Sirius wasn’t surprised to see Remus already there, a copy of the Daily Prophet in his hands, his face grave. Even though the Prophet was lacking many details, they all had reason to look grave.
Before any of the Marauders had a chance to say a word, or Harry to appropriately run to hug his Uncles James and Remus properly, a small fire burst into being, and a golden phoenix feather with a note attached fell out.
“Urgent Order meeting,” James said, reading it.
“I’ll stay with Harry,” Lily said, coming down the stairs, tears shining in her eyes. “If you don’t want to take him to the meeting.”
Harry looked at his father expectantly. He wanted to go, and as Lily said, he was well on his way to becoming the most spoiled child in England; it wasn’t often his father denied him anything. (Lily also said it would be a miracle if Harry didn’t turn out to be as conceited as his father once was, just not in front of Sirius.)
But this time Sirius did. Harry didn’t need to be at Order meetings.
Oddly though, James seemed somehow relieved to be leaving Lily at home. Padfoot made a mental note to ask Prongs about it later.
The meeting was short, but weighed heavily on everyone’s minds. For the better part of two years, the Longbottoms lived at an undisclosed location for the safety of themselves and their son, target of a Prophecy; however, they chose not to trust the Fidelus Charm. Somehow, Voldemort learned of the Longbottoms’ location, and broke through the protective wards to pay them a visit.
Frank and Alice were killed dueling the Dark Lord, who proceeded to net murder their child, Neville, and send up the Dark Mark.
Almost worse than the knowledge of losing their friends was the fact that the Longbottoms had been the single most protected family in the Order. If Death Eaters could locate them for their master, who would be next? The spy was still at large.
Not to mention, Voldemort now believed he had fulfilled the prophecy, and killed the one person who had been granted powers to defeat him.
A/N: So sorry for the extremely long wait on this chapter. I pretty much completely stopped writing for fun after starting college, but I've got too much planned in this story to leave it unfinished. Plus, I found out my roommate whom I never met before college had this story listed as one of her favorites shortly after meeting her three years ago. Since her birthday is in a couple days, I'll dedicate this chapter to her. She's been bugging me to get on with the story long enough.
And Life Goes On
Sirius Black shivered awake in the dark. Overhead, a few stars twinkled in gaps between leaves. Even with a fire, the night was unnaturally cold for late July. The fire. Out. Sirius let out a muffled groan and wiped the sleep out of his eyes. While he held his cloak tightly around him, Sirius stretched his legs and nudged the sleeping man next to him—who should have been standing watch—with his foot. "Wormtail, the fire. You let it go out again."
Peter Pettigrew squeaked and jumped, managing to throw his own cloak off of him. His beady, watery eyes darted around and landed on Sirius. "Oh, right. Sorry, Padfoot. I-I didn't mean to fall asleep." He lit the cooled logs with his wand, after four tries. "I just-"
"I really don't get you, mate," Sirius interrupted. "When Dumbledore assigns you to any mission, even ones like this where we sit and guess dementor populations based on the cold, you're ready to piss yourself, but once you get there you sleep better than I do."
Peter added another stick to the fire and nodded.
"Just keep the fire going and wake me in an hour. Or if any Death Eaters get too close." Sirius rolled over and hugged his cloak tighter. No longer tired enough to sleep, Sirius kept his face away from Wormtail and thought about his son.
Even though Lily and James had never been anything less than enthusiastic to watch Harry, Sirius hated leaving his son for days, especially so close to Harry's birthday. No matter how simple the mission was, Sirius always worried something would keep him late and he'd miss that special day. Of course, leaving for Order business was even harder now that Harry was getting older and understanding that whenever his father left with orders from Dumbledore he might not come back.
For this mission though, Sirius was determined to finish the reconnaissance as quickly as possible. He had not been thrilled about being partnered with Peter, but Sirius knew by now to keep Wormtail's duties limited to keeping the fire going and standing short watches. And if all went well, they'd be at the Order headquarters by the end of the day and home tomorrow.
The last fact was most important to Sirius because the day after tomorrow would be Harry's birthday. And his eleventh birthday. Sirius had already promised him the day in London to celebrate and buy school supplies for his first year at Hogwarts. Although seeing the excitement in Harry's eyes when he opened the acceptance letter had been one of the happiest and proudest of Sirius' life, Sirius couldn't help but dwell on the fact that Harry would be leaving him for school soon. Sirius knew that if he had been spending the past week with Harry and James instead of Wormtail and dementors that thought would not have settled in his mind so bitterly, but now all he could do was accept that his son was growing up, and much too fast in his opinion.
"Sirius! Sirius, wake up!" A hushed and high voice penetrated Sirius' thoughts. "Death Eaters are coming! Sirius, they found us!"
Sirius shot up, wand at the ready. Then he saw what Peter did and smacked his friend upside the head. "It's Sturgis and Dedalus, you nit. None of our alarms went off."
Once identities had been confirmed, Sturgis Podmore and Dedalus Diggle took over the mission and small camp, and Sirius and Peter were able to reactivate the Portkey their fellow Order members had used and go back home.
Sirius was thrown nearly off-balance as 35 kilos of skinny 11-year-old rammed into him. He smiled and held Harry as tight as he could. "Missed you too, pup."
"I'm glad you're back," Harry said into his father's chest.
"So am I," Sirius replied, and kissed the top of Harry's straight, black hair.
"Hey, mate." James stood with his arms crossed, leaning against the front doorframe and smiling. "How was being stuck in the middle of nowhere with only Wormtail for company for a week?"
James laughed. "It was only a week, but I missed you, Padfoot."
"So just how was hosting my well-behaved son this week?"
James snorted and turned to go back inside his house. "Well-behaved my arse."
Sirius followed with Harry, keeping a hand on the boy's back. He raised an eyebrow and grinned at Harry.
"He locked Lily out of all the kitchen cabinets, twice. And managed to blame it on me, twice."
Now it was Sirius' turn to laugh. He turned to Harry and gave him a proud kiss on the forehead. "A regular Marauder."
Harry gave him an embarrassed but accomplished smile in return.
"Yeah, funny for you, I almost didn't eat this week," James said, smiling all the same.
"Excited for tomorrow, Harry?" Sirius asked. He saw his son's light green eyes light up, his smile widen, and his head nod. Sirius couldn't believe he was out counting dementors just a few hours ago.
"Yeah! And I can't wait to get my wand and books and everything. I don't need a potions book though, because Aunt Lily's letting me take hers. She says it was her favorite subject. She showed me how to make the first potion from the book and let me help. Not just help stir it, I got to make it. Want to see? Aunt Lily says it looks just like it's supposed to."
Sirius laughed again. "All right, let's go see your potion."
Harry took Sirius' hand and led him past James and into the kitchen where Lily was.
When she saw Sirius, Lily smiled, put the dish she was hand-washing into the sink, dried her hands, and hugged him warmly. "Glad to see you back safe."
"Glad to be back," Sirius said. He thought the witch's smile, while genuine, didn't quite meet her eyes. But then again, Sirius always thought that after Harry had been staying with the Potters for a while. He knew Lily loved his son with all her heart, but he couldn't forget that for all these years Harry was a living reminder of what she always wanted but never had.
"Aunt Lily, where'd you put my potion? I want to show Dad."
"In this cabinet, sweetheart." Lily tried to open a cabinet above the sink, but the door stuck. "JAMES!"
Sirius put an arm around Harry and snickered quietly, listening to Harry laugh beside him. He would have to make a point of hearing Harry laugh as much as possible before September first.
Sirius finally started to fall asleep after spending all night getting everything ready for Harry’s eleventh birthday when light from the corridor spilled into his opening door.
“Dad! Get up!” Harry was practically jumping as he shook his father’s bed. “You said we could leave early.”
Sirius glanced at the clock. “Pup, it’s barely seven. None of the shops open this early.”
“But the earlier we eat breakfast the earlier we can leave once they do open.”
“James and Lily aren’t meeting us until ten. Do you want to tell your aunt why she missed your school shopping?”
Harry sighed and looked to the floor. “No.” Glancing back up, he said, “But we don’t have to shop until they get there.”
“Let me get a couple more hours of sleep and I’ll take you to the Leaky Cauldron for breakfast,” Sirius promised. He smiled when he saw Harry’s face brighten.
“Harry, wait,” Sirius said, as Harry turned to leave the room. He beckoned his son over.
Sirius grinned and grabbed Harry, then began tickling him in his sensitive underarm. “You think you’re getting out of here that easily after waking me up?”
Harry tried with all his strength to get away while laughing so hard he began to turn red. “Dad! Hahaha! Sto-haha-stop! Let-hahahaha-go!”
“Are you going to try waking me up again?”
“Good.” Sirius stopped tickling and pulled Harry close for a hug while the boy, still giggling, tried to even his breathing. “Happy birthday, son.”
Harry put his arms around his father’s back and squeezed tightly.
“Alright, let’s get up,” Sirius said.
“Yeah.” Sirius swung his legs out of bed and stretched. Lily was right, he did spoil Harry silly, but as long as the kid wasn’t turning into the bratty bugger Sirius had once been, as a father who wanted his son to have everything he’d ever need or want, Sirius couldn’t deny Harry anything that wasn’t dangerous. “Get dressed, we’ll leave in 15 minutes or so.”
Harry dashed out the door, causing Sirius to chuckle.
Really, Sirius hadn’t been half as spoiled as Harry, but it still took him most of his life so far to learn to be grateful for the little things and appreciate what might not be there tomorrow. He had learned that from watching friends get blown to bits. Harry, although he had never been the most obedient kid, was almost always well-mannered, kind, and thankful for what those who cared about him did for him. Even though he would never admit it to her, Sirius thanked Lily for that; he easily would have gotten carried away and turned his wonderful son into Europe’s biggest brat if it hadn’t been for her.
“I’m ready!” Harry came back into his father’s bedroom.
Sirius looked down at himself. He only had one pantleg on, his robes needed to be fastened, and his toothbrush hung out of his mouth. He gave Harry a sheepish grin and quickly finished dressing, then ran into his bathroom to rinse out his mouth.
“Okay, let’s go.”
Harry eagerly followed Sirius down the stairs, taking them two at a time.
“After you, birthday boy,” Sirius said, holding out a pot of Floo Powder for Harry.
Harry took a pinch, threw it to the fireplace, and stepped in emerald green flames. “Leaky Cauldron!”
After taking a bit of powder for himself and setting the pot back on the mantle, Sirius followed.
“Happy birthday, sweetheart!” Lily pulled Harry into a tight hug after he ran up to her in the Leaky cauldron. “How do you like being eleven so far?”
“Great. Where’s Uncle James?”
“I’m sorry, Harry, he wanted to be here but he got called into work. He’s trying to get home to see you as early as possible.”
Sirius caught Lily’s eye. “Who?” He knew James would only agree to go into work on Harry’s birthday if something terrible happened. Sirius still remembered how James had threatened to quit if he wasn’t allowed to go home early on Harry’s sixth birthday.
Lily just shook her head.
“What happened?” Harry asked, looking from his aunt to his father.
“Nothing, kiddo. But you’ve got a birthday to celebrate; James wouldn’t have us stop the fun just because he’s not here yet.” Sirius smiled as brightly as he could for his son, and he followed him and Lily into Diagon Alley.
“Where would you like to go first?” Lily asked.
“Can I get my wand?” Harry asked, turning to his father.
Sirius gave a bark-like laugh. “Anything you want.”
After growing up with his parents, Mr. Ollivander didn’t bother Sirius at all, but it was clear Lily found him creepy from her awkward smile at being addressed by the man and tight hold on her godson’s shoulder.
“Well, Mr. Black, let’s get your measurements,” Mr. Ollivander said. A measuring tape flew over and began measuring seemingly random proportions of Harry’s body, anything from the length of elbow to fingertip and in between the young wizard’s nostrils.
“Stop!” Ollivander said, and the measuring tape fell to the floor. He went through some boxes in the back and presented one to Harry. “Eleven inches, birch, unicorn hair.”
Harry barely swished the wand before Ollivander yanked it away.
“Ten and half, oak, phoenix tail feather.”
That wand was taken back too.
“Eleven, cedar, dragon heart-string.”
“Ten and three quarters, poplar, dragon heart-string.”
Sirius smiled when he saw red sparkles emit from the poplar want.
“Excellent, Mr. Black!” Ollivander took the wand and wrapped it.
“How about some ice cream?” Sirius asked, after leaving Ollivander’s.
“Sure!” Harry said, just as Lily said, “It’s lunch time.”
“It’s his birthday; he’s got a wand now. Ice cream for lunch is a great idea. Let’s go.”
Sirius pretended he didn’t hear Lily huff.
For being opposed at first, Sirius thought Lily was rather enjoying her ice cream lunch. He was just about to say as much when a large shadow engulfed them.
“Hullo Sirius, Lily, Harry. Fine day, eh?”
“Hi, Hagrid,” Sirius said. “care to join us for some birthday ice cream?”
“Nah, I got ter be gettin’ back ter Hogwarts. Very important business I’m on. Dumbledore’s orders. Did ye lot hear about wha’ happened this mornin’?”
“We’ll hear about it tonight, I expect,” Sirius said, not wanting to think about whatever had happened during his son’s special day.
“Well anyways, I jus’ saw Harry and wanted ter wish him a happy birthday and give him a present.”
“Wow! Thanks, Hagrid!” Harry stood up on his seat to give the colossal man a hug.
Hagrid chuckled. “Yer welcome, Harry. Hope you like it. Well, I need ter be goin’, Dumbledore expectin’ me an’ all.” He waved and headed in the direction of the Leaky Cauldron.
“Can I open it now, Dad?”
“I don’t see why not.” Sirius smiled and bit into his cone.
“You guys back already?” James asked, sitting at the kitchen table with a steaming mug in his hand.
“Uncle James, look what Hagrid got me!” Harry ran into the kitchen and put a birdcage holding a snowy white owl, who seemed not to appreciate the Floo Network, onto the table.
Sirius caught James’ eye from the living room and mouthed, ‘Keep him in there.’
“Neat. Now give me a hug.” Once James had Harry in a hug, he said, “Happy birthday, kiddo. So what are you going to name it?”
Harry bit his lip. “I don’t know.”
“You two going to sit in there all day? We’re having a party in this room,” Sirius called when he finished magically decorating and summoning over the two remaining party guests, with Lily’s help, of course.
Sirius smiled when he saw the excited look on Harry’s face. The living room now housed Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, a pile of presents, a birthday cake, balloons, and a ‘Happy Birthday Harry’ banner, in addition to the Potters and the Blacks.
One good thing Sirius had always noted about Harry getting up early was Harry would go to bed early. After a few hours of cake-eating and present-opening and game-playing, Harry was fast asleep on the couch next to his aunt. Lily and Remus were talking about something, but Sirius was more concerned with what James had to say than anything else.
“So what did happen this morning, Prongs?” Sirius asked, leading James into the kitchen. Peter followed.
James sighed and tilted his head down. “I’m sorry, mate. Ted Tonks was murdered.”
Sirius felt the color drain from his face as he sank into a chair. “How?”
“We don’t know everything yet. We aren’t even sure who they were going after.”
“What about Andromeda? Her daughter?”
“They were out when it happened.”
Sirius hadn’t seen Andromeda or her family much since he joined the Order. Andromeda made it clear she didn’t want her daughter connected in any way to the Order of the Phoenix and Sirius respected her wishes. Purebloods were usually left alone if they had not openly defied Voldemort. Ted was Muggleborn, but Andromeda wasn’t.
“Wait, they might not have been going for Ted?”
“Well, Ted’s Muggleborn, but Andromeda’s a blood traitor, and their daughter is a Metamorphmagus. Mad-Eye’s got no idea.”
“I’ll be fine. Just going to bed.” As Sirius crossed the living to reach the stairs, he looked back at Harry. What if the Death Eaters had attacked the Tonks’ for Andromeda, the blood traitor? Voldemort’s reasons for wanting Sirius dead only began at blood traitor. If Death Eaters came for him and Harry was home… At least Hogwarts was the safest place Sirius knew of.
Disclaimer: Some stuff on the train taken from Harry Potter. If you find something out of the books or movies, it's also not mine, in addition to the characters.
A/N: This is a long one, but I can't promise all future chapters will be this long. Thanks to anyone who may have started reading this story years ago and is still continuing with it.
The Hogwarts Express
August 30th. Whatever else Sirius had told himself about the safety of Hogwarts and Harry needing friends his own age, September 1st was not a day he wanted to dawn. Ever. Deep down, Sirius knew he was being selfish. Harry deserved a life with friends and freedom from home. Without Hogwarts, Harry would grow up surrounded by his father, his godparents, and his uncles. What kid wanted that? But ten minutes to midnight, sitting alone in his dark kitchen, reaching for the full glass next to an open whiskey bottle, Sirius could care less what Harry wanted. And that thought drove him to refill his glass. What kind of father put himself over his son? Since the day he first saw his son, Sirius knew the boy would be accepted to Hogwarts one day. Eleven years, and Sirius still couldn't accept that his son would leave home. He filled his glass again.
"Padfoot, you up?" James Potter called from the living room, his voice quiet enough to not carry to the second floor where Harry was asleep.
Sirius sighed and placed a half-empty glass on the table. When he stood, his legs shook from the sudden rush of alcohol to his brain, and he grabbed a chair, nearly toppling it, to stay upright.
The room swayed like a boat at sea, but Sirius managed to stumble to the living room without falling by using countertops and walls to steady himself.
"Wow. Mate." James tried to get an arm around Sirius, but Sirius pushed him away, almost toppling over.
"I dun eed 'elp." Sirius only needed one of his hands on the floor to push himself onto the couch. He tried to blink the blurry, rocking world into focus. "I oo 'ere? Ut ha'end?" Sirius heard something in the kitchen and tried to raise his heavy head to see.
Sirius felt too weighted down to protest, so he swallowed the thick liquid being poured down his throat. The living room and James' frowning face slowly cleared into an image Sirius could process. "Prongs?"
"I feel like I've been hit by the Knight Bus," Sirius said, bringing his hands to his face and sitting up.
"Not surprised; you polished off that new bottle of whiskey."
Sirius groaned. "Why are you here?"
"Assignment from Dumbledore. He wants you, me, Moony, and a couple other Order members on the train tomorrow."
Sirius forgot about the train Dumbledore had assigned him to guard in the past. He started drinking one night too early. Then again, a long, relaxing train ride was an excellent place to sleep off a hangover. Staying with Harry throughout the ride would be out of the question. No matter what, Sirius refused to be 'that' parent, the parent who humiliated his son by always being present while the kid tried to make friends and not get made fun of.
"You think that's a good idea?"
"If Voldemort tries to attack the train, I think it's a great idea. If not, I'd still rather be prepared, especially with Harry on-board." James sat next to his best friend. "Why?"
"I mean Moony, not the rest of us."
"Full moon's not for two weeks—"
Sirius could not pretend he didn't feel James' glare.
"Not this again!"
"No!" James jumped up. "I'm getting you another potion; you're obviously still drunk."
"Hear me out. We aren't any closer to finding out who it is now than we were twelve years ago. And Remus told me something."
"What? That he suddenly works for everything he spent years fighting against? I don't want to hear it, Sirius!"
Sirius fell farther back into the couch, if that was possible. He watched James storm into the kitchen.
"Get it together, Black," he muttered to himself. First, he got too drunk to be anything but hungover on the last morning he would see his son in months, then he accused Remus of being the traitor, and to James, no less! Last time Sirius had done that, he had almost destroyed his friendship with James, and Sirius didn't even think Remus had been betraying them anymore. He trusted the werewolf with his life. With his son's life. He had left Harry alone with Remus countless times, hadn't he?
"Here," James snarled, throwing a potion vial into Sirius' lap. "I'll see you in the morning."
But Prongs was gone. Already, green embers were all that was left of the fire James had Flooed out of.
"Dad?" Harry leaned against the railing at the bottom of the steps rubbing sleep out of his eyes.
"Harry." Sirius quickly drained the vial James had retrieved for him. "You should be in bed, pup. Big day tomorrow."
Harry nodded and yawned. "Was that Uncle James? He sounded upset."
"Nah, just tired. Go on back up to bed. You'll want to be awake for tomorrow." And I'll want to be sober.
Kings Cross Station was as crowded as Sirius remembered it being from his school days. The barrier to Platform 9 ¾ was certainly no different, except for a few new lines of graffiti.
Harry had a tight hold on his trolley, and Sirius had a tight, one-handed hold on him. His other hand clutched his wand in the pocket of his Muggle clothes. James, Remus, and Lily likewise kept a hand in a pocket.
"Okay, you know what to do?" Sirius asked.
"Go for it."
With that, Sirius released his hold on his son and watched him run towards the barrier. Briefly, he worried the barrier would be closed and Harry would be sent flying. Funny, he never had that worry when he ran through. But as soon as his son's back disappeared, Sirius and James casually leaned against the barrier and fell through too. A moment later, Lily and Remus were standing behind them on the platform.
Harry was gazing wide-eyed at the scarlet steam engine. "Wow."
"Now, Harry," Sirius said, pulling him aside. "I can't let you get on that train without going over this with you one more time. You will be the only Marauder Hogwarts has seen in years."
"Yes, we leave you with this precious artifact of our Marauding school days in the hopes that you will carry on our noble work," James said, and handed Harry a wrapped parcel.
"Thanks!" Harry said, grinning. He started to open the package but his father and godfather quickly stopped him.
"Not out here," Sirius warned him as James looked nervously at Lily.
"And remember we'll be proud of you no matter what," Remus said, joining them.
"Be careful, sweetie," Lily said, pulling Harry into a hug. "I love you."
"Love you, too."
"We'll miss you, kiddo."
"Good luck in school."
Sirius held Harry in the longest hug, and then Harry was boarding. Sirius saw him struggle a bit with his trunk and owl—whom he decided to name Hedwig after reading a History of Magic book—and moved to help, but Remus' hand on his arm and a shake of the head stopped him. A pair of red-headed boys who looked a bit older were already helping.
"Let him make friends."
"Yeah, yeah I should…"
Sirius boarded the train with his three friends and met up with Kingsley Shacklebolt—an Auror and Order member—and John Dawlish—just an Auror—in a forward compartment.
Sirius ignored greetings from the two, sat next to the window, and made a point of staring outside as Platform 9 ¾ was pulled out of view.
Not ten minutes after leaving the station, Sirius left the compartment, muttering something about the loo before sliding the door shut behind him. Carefully checking that no one was around to see, he transformed into a large, Grim-like dog and padded down the train. The few Hogwarts students still not seated were too busy searching compartments or snogging to notice Padfoot.
When Padfoot's nose led him to Harry, he could tell his son was not alone and listened by the door. His heart raced, and he kept switching his weight from left to right and back because of his sweaty paw pads. Would Harry be hurt if he knew his father was eavesdropping while he tried to make friends? But there would be time to debate with himself later; Sirius wanted to hear what Harry and the other boy were saying.
"I'm Ron, by the way. Ron Weasley."
"Harry. Harry Black."
"Oh—" The Ron boy sounded hesitant.
"Don't worry, my dad and I aren't nutters like the rest of the Blacks. He was in Gryffindor, and that's where I'm going too."
Sirius could hear the relief in the boy's voice and silently cursed his family name for being so associated with the Dark Arts that even kids knew to be cautious around Blacks if their family loved Muggles.
"My whole family was in Gryffindor too. Ug, corned beef. I hate corned beef. Mum's always forgetting; she doesn't have much time, with five of us, you know."
"You have four brothers and sisters?" Harry sounded excited. Sirius felt a pang of guilt at keeping him from other children for so long.
"Nah, six. Bill and Charlie already left Hogwarts."
"Six? That must be great! At my house, it's just me and my dad."
"What about your mum?"
"Erm, I never knew her. My dad never knew her either, says he doesn't remember her at all."
Something in Harry's voice made Sirius take a step back. Did Harry think he was lying about not knowing the identity of his mother? Before he could dwell too long on what Harry might think, approaching footsteps sent Padfoot as far into the shadows as he could manage. He watched as a young girl with bushy, brown hair pulled open the door to Harry's compartment.
"Have either of you seen a cat? I let mine out and now I can't find him."
"No, we haven't seen any cat!" Ron said.
"Well could you let me if you do? I'm Hermione Granger, by the way." And with that, the girl left and the compartment door slid shut.
"Don't know why she's bothering, looking all over the train," Sirius heard Ron say. "It's a cat, someone'll find it."
Sirius had almost reached his previous spot by the door when heard, well more smelt than heard, the witch with the trolley coming close and retreated back to his hiding place.
"Anything off the trolley, dears?" Sirius heard her ask Harry and Ron.
"You bet!" Harry said.
Sirius snorted as he watched his son load his arms with such an assortment of sweets that Sirius felt an early onset of acid reflux just looking at it all. He was, however, pleased to hear Harry offer some of the candy to his new friend, for more reasons than not wanting Harry to make himself sick on his first day.
Sirius laid on his paws while listening to the boys talk about Chocolate Frog Cards and what flavors of Bertie Botts Every-Flavored Beans they liked best. He was trying not to think about what Harry had said regarding his mother when the next person to approach the compartment was James. No hiding from James.
Before Padfoot could transform back into a wizard, James grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and hauled him into an empty compartment.
"Really, Sirius? Harry's growing up, he can't be stuck to you forever."
"I know, I just…"
"Sirius, you have to start letting him go," James said, squeezing Sirius' shoulder. "You must have heard him laughing in there. Hogwarts'll be great for him."
"He's my son, James."
"That's part of raising a kid, letting him grow up and learn to live without you there all the time. You're his father, mate, and he adores you. That's never going change, no matter how old he gets."
James' words stung. Did Harry adore him? Or did he think his father was a lying bastard who was purposefully keeping him apart from his mother?
"You're right," Sirius finally said. "I'm just going to sit here for a while. Clear my head."
James nodded. "Sure thing. Let me know if you me."
"Yeah," Sirius said, watching James leave.
Sirius hadn't been sitting alone long when the train lurched and he was thrown around the compartment. What the hell? Sirius pressed a hand to a throbbing spot on his head. He looked up and saw the seats above him. The train was upside-down. Blood smeared over the hand Sirius had pulled away from his head. He grabbed his wand and forced the door open. He hoisted himself up through the door and onto the corridor ceiling. He wrenched the jammed door to Harry's compartment open.
"Harry! Are you all right?"
Sirius let out the breath he was holding when he heard Harry over the screeches of his owl.
"You aren't hurt?"
"No, Hedwig's a bit rattled up though. Ron's okay too."
"Harry, listen to me. I want you to stay there. I'm going to lock the door so no one can get in. Do NOT open it for anyone until I come to get you. Understand?"
"No, Dad, what's going on?"
"Your dad's on the train?" Ron asked.
Sirius ignored him. "Death Eaters, stay there." He closed the door again and magically locked it so Harry could get out from the inside but no one could open the door from the outside. Sirius started up the train, carefully maneuvering around students climbing out of compartments and luggage that had already been thrown out. "Everyone get back inside!" Sirius barked. If there was going to be a fight with Death Eaters, it wouldn't be happening in the compartments, and better that the kids were out of the line of fire.
A man in a white mask crossed Sirius' line of vision, and he shot a stunner at the Death Eater. But a second masked man deflected it.
"Somebody, help!" a frightened voice called out.
"Harry, what are you doing?" Ron asked, as Harry climbed onto his fallen trunk to reach the door. "Your dad said to stay here."
"Someone needs help." Harry pushed open the door. "I'm going to help."
"Harry," Ron whined. But he still got up and followed his new friend out the door.
"Don't shut it," Harry said. "We can go back inside once we find whoever needs help." He looked around and spotted a ginger cat perched in an open compartment door frame.
"Are you in here?" Harry asked.
"Yes! Please help!"
With a little difficulty, Harry climb into the compartment and helped Ron in. He quickly spotted the bushy haired girl who had asked about her cat with her leg pinned under two trunks that jammed together.
"I-I think it's broken," she said, gripping her thigh and crying. "I can't get it off."
"Hold on," Harry said. He and Ron started pushing on the trunks. Parents could put charms on their kids' trunks to make them light, but weights of these trunks were painfully obvious. When the boys had the trunks tilted high enough, Hermione pulled her leg out.
"Th-thank you," she said, drying her eyes with the back of her hand. "Do you know what happened?"
"The train was attacked by Death Eaters."
The girl's eyes got wide. "You mean those horrible people Professor Vector told me about?"
"Wait, you're Muggleborn?" Sirius had told Harry professors would visit Muggleborn students the summer before their first year to take them and their family to Diagon Alley for school supplies and explain how to get onto Platform 9 ¾.
"Why does that matter?" she asked, obviously offended.
"It doesn't to us, but if the Death Eaters find out—You have to come back to our compartment with us. There's a charm on the door so they can't get in," Harry told her.
"But… I can't walk."
"We'll help," Harry said, and pulled one of her arms around his shoulders.
With Ron on Hermione's other side, the wizards managed to get the witch into the corridor. Before they could get back to the compartment, though, a masked woman slammed the charmed door shut.
The witch took off her mask and grinned at Harry. "You're my blood traitor cousin's brat, aren't you?"
Harry knew who this had to be, Sirius had warned him about her enough times. And that meant she did know exactly who he was.
Harry took a step back, pulling Hermione and Ron with him.
"Don't try to run from me, little baby Black. I'm not going to kill you. I only want to take you far away. I'll bring you back, too. I'll let your worthless father see all the pain I'll put you through before I kill him. The last thing he'll hear is you screaming in agony. Won't that be fun?"
The crazy witch inched closer, wand drawn.
Harry looked around, desperately, for Sirius.
"You sick nutter!" Ron said, unbelieving.
Bellatrix Lestrange laughed. "A Weasley, calling me a nutter?" She laughed again.
Harry couldn't remember being so scared in his entire life. Where was Dad?
Her wand flashed, and Ron was thrown into a wall and knocked out.
Harry tried to drag Hermione with him, tried to get away from Bellatrix's outstretched hand, but her long, cold fingers found his neck. Harry kicked at her clawed the hand at his throat, but that only made Bellatrix laugh again.
"Dad—" he choked out.
"Don't worry, you'll see your father again. I promise."
"Sooner than you think." Sirius' wand was a blur as he moved to curse his cousin.
Bellatrix dropped Harry to defend herself. "It's been too long, Sirius," she said, and again laughed that damned laugh.
"Not long enough!"
Sirius was fast, but Bellatrix was faster. Her spell hit him in the chest, and Sirius crumpled to the floor.
Bellatrix reached for Harry again. "And now, Black—"
"Now, you will release my student," an authoritative voice commanded.
Harry was freed from the Death Eater's grip, and he crawled as quickly as he could to his unconscious father. "Dad." He lightly shook his father's shoulder. "Please get up, Dad."
"Please move aside, Harry. I will help your father as much as I can, but then I must return to the rest of my students."
Harry recognized Albus Dumbledore. Hermione's leg was in a heavy cast, and Ron was awake. Bellatrix was gone.
Harry nodded and moved over as much as he could. Dumbledore muttered incantations too fast and quietly for Harry to understand, but a moment later, Sirius groaned and clutched his chest.
"Dad!" Harry flung himself onto his injured father, causing him to hiss in pain, but Sirius held Harry as tightly as he could anyways.
"Sirius, I believe it will be best if you remain conscious for the remainder of the trip," Dumbledore instructed.
"Yeah, whatever you say."
After checking nearby compartments for other students and finding them empty, Dumbledore started to make his way back up the train.
A silvery stag, a patronus, stopped in front of Sirius. James' voice came out of its mouth, asking "We're all okay. How are you and Harry?"
Sirius waved his wand and a silvery dog shot out to answer.
In the attack on the Hogwarts Express, Dumbledore had arrived before anyone had been killed, and Antonin Dolohov was in Azkaban. Sirius had been patched up from his duel with Bellatrix after arriving in Hogsmeade and sent home. Only Lily had been worse off than Sirius—Dolohov held her under the Cruciatus Curse for a few seconds before James introduced the man to hell, which allowed him to be arrested while his fellow Death Eaters fled.
The Wizarding World panicked when word of the attack got out. The Hogwarts Express had never been attacked before. Dumbledore and the Ministry were flooded with angry owls and howlers, and quite a few students had been pulled out of Hogwarts. Sirius, however, was among the parents who believed Dumbledore offered the greatest safety for his child, and after Harry told him everything Bellatrix had said, Sirius forgot about his self-pity long enough to assure Harry he'd never pull him out of school.
That was three weeks ago, and since then, Harry had sent an owl at least twice a week that Sirius never hesitated in responding to. He learned that his son had been sorted into Gryffindor (where else?), was now best friends with the Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger he had met on the train, and had managed to screw up his first potions assignment because he couldn't read the board as well as his classmates and needed glasses. Also, Sirius' cousin Draco Malfoy had approached Harry before the Sorting eremony offering friendship, but he called Ron 'riffraff' and Hermione 'Mudblood' so Harry told him, in a rather colorful way if he was understanding his son's hints, to bugger off. Not the best way to start his school career, in Sirius' opinion, but at least it meant he wouldn't have to "reconnect" with the Malfoys.
"Hey, mate. What'd you need to ask us?" James asked, entering Sirius' study with Remus and Peter in tow.
Sirius finished tying a letter to Hedwig's leg and sent her out the window. "I heard Harry say something on the train." He had been brooding over this for weeks and hoped his friends would have a better insight into it than he did.
"Has he ever asked you guys anything about his mother?"
"Nothing he hasn't asked you," James said, sitting.
"Only if I knew her," Remus answered.
Peter nodded. "I didn't know about her, so Harry didn't ask about anything else."
"What'd he say?" James asked.
"He sounded like… like he didn't believe I don't know who she is. How he said it… his tone… everything! He said that I would say I didn't know, and he was so bitter. I doubt that boy he was talking to—Ron—would have noticed, but I've been listening to Harry's voice for eleven years."
"I think you're reading too far into this," James said. "I was there when you asked Dumbledore, no one in our world knows who she is. We've both told him that."
"I guess…" Sirius said, but he knew that hadn't been pure disappointment Harry was speaking out of on the train.
"Maybe he thinks you don't care about knowing," Remus said, slowly.
"You've never tried to find her. Have you ever offered to?"
"Why don't you try? Go to the pubs you might have met her at and see if anyone remembers."
"That's not a bad idea," Sirius said, running a hand through his hair. "Do you really think that could be it though? If he wanted me to look for her, why didn't he just ask? Merlin knows he'll ask for anything else."
"This isn't a broomstick, Sirius, it's his mother."
"Yeah, yeah, you're probably right. I'll do that."
"Sirius?" James asked. "Is there something else?"
Sirius sighed. "I never tried to find her. I didn't care if I never found out who she was, so I guessed Harry wouldn't either. She gave him away. What if she still doesn't want him?" Sirius let his hair fall over his face to hide his wet eyes.
"That was eleven years ago," James said, slowly. "She's not a kid faced with the prospect of raising a child on her own anymore—"
"I was! And when I found out about Harry, I took him. I raised him. I loved him! I've never loved anyone more. She's his mother, how could she not feel that too?"
"You know better than any of us that being a parent... That not all parents love their children the same."
Sirius nodded. "Her giving Harry up was the best thing that could have happened for me, but how could she? He was her baby and he needed her."
James squeezed Sirius' shoulder. "You wanted him from the beginning. I'd say that means he needs you more."
Sirius offered a grateful smile. Harry did need him. And if there was a chance that Harry needed him to find his mother, he would have to start looking. "I'm going to find her."
Sirius spent the next week searching every Muggle pub he had ever been to that he could remember. Unfortunately, since he hadn't visited any in over a decade, many of the staff had changed. So far, only one elderly man remembered seeing Sirius, but he remembered seeing Sirius blond and a head shorter. When Sirius tried telling the man he had never been blond, the man threw his mug at Sirius' head and started screaming about the Devil. This pub, just outside London, was the last Sirius would be checking out tonight. Inside was a bit more run-down than he remembered, but the welcoming fire and relaxed, happy-looking people who filled the place were the same.
After he found a seat at the bar, Sirius ordered some popular Muggle drink. He sipped slowly and scanned every face, looking for someone he might remember. And there she was. She looked younger than thirty, with black hair cut into a short bob. Sirius had no memory of seeing her before, but she seemed so familiar. Her eyes were light green, the same shade as Harry's, and Sirius saw his son's cheekbones and chin on her face. She sat alone at a booth, reading a menu while sipping a glass of red wine.
Abandoning his drink, Sirius approached her, staring at the features he had seen almost every day for the past eleven years.
"Er, excuse me? Have, uh, have we met?" Sirius wondered if he had ever sounded so lame talking to a woman before, especially one he had no desire to take to bed.
She looked at him sharply, but her eyes widened. "I don't believe it!" She slid out of the booth and straightened her skirt. "I thought I'd never see you again! And I had no way of getting in touch with you!" She hugged Sirius tightly. "You were my first time, you know." She giggled.
Sirius grabbed her shoulders and gently pushed her back. "About that... I know it was a long time ago-"
"I know, and I feel so bad. I wish I could have found you afterwards, to tell you. Oh, and did you say your name was 'Serious'? You were a little drunk, and I thought it sounded odd—"
"'Sirius,' yes. Listen... I don't remember you or anything about that night."
The woman sank back into the booth. "Oh. I see."
Sirius sat across from her. "I know that it happened. What you just said means it had to have been you. I know about our baby; I've been raising him since he was a week old. Please tell me your name."
She looked at him, surprised, but then smiled. "Clarissa. Clarissa Stevenson. Now please, tell me my son's name."
"You want to know about him?" Sirius had hardly dared to hope that he would find this woman, and now she was interested in Harry.
"Of course! He's my baby. I was fifteen when I got pregnant, almost sixteen when I had him. I never wanted to give him up, but my mother threatened to put us both on the street if I didn't. I tried to find you, but I just couldn't. And you got him even though I never told you! Can I see him, please? I've spent so long dreaming of meeting him? Please?"
Sirius had not been expecting that. She actually wanted Harry. Her mother had been the one who didn't. And did she say she had been fifteen? Sirius had only been twenty at the time, but he fully intended to apologize to Lily for every time he got mad at her for calling him a perverted pig. Fifteen?
"Sirius?" Her green eyes, so like Harry's, looked at him hopefully.
Sirius smiled. "His name is 'Harry,' and he'd love to meet you, Clarissa."
Clarissa jumped up, laughing, and threw her arms around Sirius. "Thank you, thank you so much! Oh, my son, Harry. When can I see him?"
"Well, he's at a boarding school right now," Sirius said, patting her back. "I'll write to the Headmaster in the morning and see if Harry'll be able to come home next weekend."
"Would you? Oh, Sirius, you're wonderful!" She kissed him.
Sirius moved to push her away again, but didn't. He hadn't been kissed by a woman in so long. And Clarissa wasn't fifteen anymore; she was a grown woman who wanted to know her son. His son.
"Sirius, I have a great idea. Let's rent that same room again, tonight."
He should have pushed her away. "Clarissa," he said, standing up. "I can't. I'm sorry, but I can't."
She covered her mouth. "Oh my god, you're with someone else. I shouldn't have kissed you without asking."
"No, it's not that." He took her hand in both of his. "Having Harry changed me. I'm not the same man I was twelve years ago. I don't actually know anything about you, except your name. If you're going to be the first woman I've been with since having Harry, I need to get to know you before jumping in bed with you, even if you are Harry's mother. And if I'm going to have that sort of relationship with someone, I need Harry to be okay with it first."
"That might be the sweetest thing I've ever heard a man say." She kissed him again, and this time Sirius pulled her closer.
A/N: If anyone's wondering: Yes, I remember the plot of my own story.
A/N: This chapter didn't take as long to write as I thought it would, but I ended up adding more to it than I originally planned. Enjoy!
"And we're having dinner tonight, too!" Sirius told James, finishing his story of finding Clarissa. "I got a private parlor booked at the Leaky Cauldron. I want to show her around our world a bit so it doesn't come as such a shock when she meets Harry."
"Are you sure that's a good idea, Sirius?" Lily asked. She had not been happy when Sirius interrupted her 'special time' with James that night, and was quite eager to get her husband back upstairs, which resulted in her sitting in the kitchen with the two Marauders, wearing an emerald-green bathrobe and a scowl, offering points of doubt to every part of Sirius' encounter with Clarissa. "You don't know anything about this woman. What if she's remembering someone else? You can't have been the only tall and dark twenty-year-old who knocked up a woman he met while drinking. If you bring her to the Leaky Cauldron and she's not who you think she is, she'll have to have her memory wiped. And what about Harry? How devastated do you think he'll be in you write to him about finding his mother only to find out you made a mistake? Why don't you go think about this before jumping into it?"
"I haven't written to Harry," Sirius said. "I wrote to Dumbledore as soon as I left the pub, but I didn't want to say anything to Harry until I knew when he'd be able to leave school for a weekend to meet Clarissa. I can't bring a Muggle to Hogwarts, she'll just see ruins."
Lily opened her mouth, but James silenced her with a hand on her arm.
"Sirius knows what he's doing. Harry isn't going to get hurt from this, so don't worry."
"I hope you're right," Lily said. "I'm going back to bed. And you had best be headed up soon too, James."
Sirius waited until she left to apologize for cock-blocking his best mate.
"No worries, Padfoot," James said, smiling. Quietly, he added, "It's better when she's angry," and followed his wife upstairs.
Laughing, Sirius Flooed home.
Sirius nervously adjusted the collar of his shirt and tried to keep his hair in line as the wind knotted it while waiting for Clarissa outside of the Leaky Cauldron. He had decided to wear Muggle clothes until explaining to her about Wizards.
A cab pulled up and Clarissa stepped out. She was wearing a heavy coat, but still looked pretty cold as early October wind brushed her hair and flushed her cheeks. Her calves were covered only by nylon and she wore opened-toed, black high heels.
Sirius smiled and kissed her cheek. "I have a lot to tell you about. Let's get out of this wind."
With a hand on the small of her back, Sirius led her inside and straight to their private room.
"Cozy," she said, looking around. When Sirius took her coat, she gave him a giggle he was beginning to find adorable. "Such a gentleman," she said, sitting down in the chair Sirius offered her.
He smiled nervously and sat across from her.
Dinner was silent and awkward, and once it was over, Sirius asked Tom the innkeeper that they not be disturbed again.
" Clarissa, I need to tell you something about Harry." Better sooner than later.
"Shh." She snaked around the table and put a finger against Sirius' lips. "Let Harry tell me about Harry. You can tell me about you." She was in his lap now.
Sirius was about to stand when he noticed her shiny lip-gloss. There was no color in it, all the color came from Clarissa's lips. But it was so shiny. He was overcome with the sudden urge to taste it. So he did. Holding the back of her head, Sirius smashed his mouth to hers, harder than he intended, but Clarissa didn't seem to mind. He ran his tongue along her thick, bottom lip, and the taste made his head spin. When he heard her gasp he gently bit down and felt her giggle against him. Sirius welcomed the feeling as she moved her legs to straddle him. In one motion, Sirius pushed the dishes and uneaten food to the floor and threw Clarissa on the table. She giggled again. So arousing. He kissed her neck and licked her lips again. He tried to brush a strand of hair away from her face, but he couldn't lift his arm. As quickly as his desire for this woman overpowered him, it vanished, and Sirius knew he was in trouble. His legs were no longer able to hold him up, and his dead weight was all supported by Clarissa and the table. Until she pushed him to the floor. All Sirius could do was stare at her, as Clarissa's smug face melted into his cousin's. Bellatrix.
She laughed. How did he ever find a laugh coming from this bitch attractive? Bellatrix wiped her lips on a napkin. "Like it?" she asked, showing him the smear of lip-gloss on the cloth. "I wore it just for you. Don't worry, it won't kill you. The Dark Lord wants you alive, for now."
How could he have been so stupid? Was he that desperate to find Harry's mother that he completely missed Clarissa being Bellatrix? Did Voldemort have the real Clarissa, or did Clarissa never exist?
Bellatrix crouched next to him. "You played right into my hands, cousin. And if that paralyzer hadn't worked so quickly, you're hands would have played right into me." She laughed.
Sirius felt sick, knowing she was right. He was almost grateful to be lying helpless on the floor.
"Not all of that was the potion," she added, squeezing between his legs and grinning.
Almost. Sirius didn't know if he wanted to glare and curse or hold a wand more. Throwing up was a good choice, too.
Bellatrix jumped back and shot a curse at the wizard in the doorway.
Sirius heard more people running to the room.
"You can't defeat me, Potter!"
"Death Eater!" More voices joined James' side, shouting curses.
"Sirius! Are you all right?"
James' face was above him now, but Sirius still couldn't move.
"Hold on, mate. I'll get you help." James levitated Sirius and brought him to St. Mungo's, the wizarding hospital.
Once there, Healers stuffed a potion down his throat, and Sirius was able to move again.
"You will have to wait a day or two for complete mobility to be restored, but no lasting damage has been done to your system," the Healer told him. After making a note on Sirius' chart, the Healer left Sirius alone with James.
"I guess that means no more dating Death Eaters, eh, Padfoot?"
"Shut up. If my muscles had been working, I would have vomited everything I just ate. That time Harry threw his shit-filled diaper in my face was less disgusting."
James started to laugh, but stopped once Sirius asked why he had been there to stop Bellatrix.
"I wasn't sure what time you were meeting her, so I went to your place to ask you about something. Something stupid, I don't even remember. You weren't there, but this was." James handed Sirius a piece of parchment that had, judging by the crinkled state of it, been stuffed into a pocket. "It's from Dumbledore. I headed for London as soon as I read it."
DO NOT MEET CLARISSA STEVENSON! She is not who she claims to be. She is dangerous.
"How could he have known?"
"I don't know, but thank Merlin he was at the Ministry," James said. "I never would have gotten that reply in time if he hadn't been."
"Yeah… But he doesn't know anymore about Harry's mother than I do, how'd he know it wasn't her?" At least Voldemort having the real Clarissa was no longer a worry.
"Professor McGonagall." Percy Weasley strode into the Transfiguration classroom with an air of importance about him.
"Professor Dumbledore wants to see Harry Black in his office immediately, ma'am."
Harry's stomach turned as he watched McGonagall scribble something on a scrap piece of parchment. Did Dumbledore find out about what he'd done last night?
"Black, go with Weasley to the Headmaster's office." She handed him the parchment.
Harry's classmates whispered wildly. The last a student had been pulled from class to see Dumbledore, their family had been killed. But Harry thought it was much more likely that Dumbledore found out about his little adventure last night than that something happened to Sirius. Harry could live with Dumbledore putting him in detention every night for the rest of the term. His being summoned by the Headmaster meant he was in trouble, and the only trouble his father was in would be the trouble of finding a suitable punishment for him.
Harry didn't pay attention as he followed Percy to Dumbledore's office, clutching the strap of his bag. He'd find his way back to class or the Gryffindor Tower eventually. After Percy told him to wait in front of two stone gargoyles and left, Harry looked at the parchment McGonagall had given him.
"Er, lemon drops?" Harry said, deciding it must be a password, or else McGonagall had lost her mind.
The stone gargoyles jumped aside and revealed a spinning staircase.
Harry started up the stairs until he reached the door to Dumbledore's office. He knocked and pushed the door open. When he saw that no one was in there, he slipped in and closed the door behind him. Hadn't his father said more than once that he wished he could have had the chance to look around Dumbledore's office without the Headmaster present? For all the help that his father's Marauder's Map was, it never said when Dumbledore locked his door beyond a password. Harry would just have to take a look around now.
A beautiful scarlet and gold bird was sleeping on a perch next to the desk. Harry had never seen a bird like it, but he recognized it from a magical animals picture book he had when he was younger. This was a phoenix. Didn't his father belong to something called the Order of the Phoenix? All his father had ever told him about the Order of the Phoenix was that his godparents and uncles were in it too, and it meant they were fighting Voldemort to keep him and the rest of the world safe. Voldemort. Sirius had always taught him to say the name, even though most witches and wizards feared it. Sirius told him he should be afraid of Voldemort, and respect the dark wizard's powers, but he shouldn't be scared so stupid that he couldn't say a name. Besides, could Voldemort really be any more terrifying than Bellatrix Lestrange, who almost captured him on the train?
Green flames erupted in the fireplace and Harry jumped back. "Professor." Harry knew guilt was all over his face.
"Mr. Black, you are not in trouble," Dumbledore said.
Harry wondered if he looked that guilty or if Dumbledore could just read minds.
"But it is very important that you are honest with me. Has a woman calling herself Clarissa Stevenson tried to contact you?"
"No." Harry had never heard that name before in his life. He shifted as Dumbledore gazed down at him over the top of his half-moon spectacles.
"If she does, you must alert myself or Professor McGonagall immediately, do you understand, Harry?"
"Yes, sir. But why would someone I don't know be trying to talk to me?"
"Your father met Clarissa Stevenson at a Muggle pub, where she convinced him that she was your mother. She is Bellatrix Lestrange."
Images of Bellatrix's sneering face and icy fingers raced through Harry's mind. "My dad? What happened to him?"
"Sirius was taken to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries after meeting with Bellatrix last night. The Healers assure me he will make a full recovery by tomorrow. I apologize for not telling you this sooner, Harry, but I had business I needed to look after in London until now."
Harry nodded. "Can I see him?"
Dumbledore sat behind his desk and brought his long fingers together beneath his nose. "Sirius has already accepted my invitation to stay at Hogwarts this weekend. But he agrees with me that because Bellatrix Lestrange, and possibly Lord Voldemort himself, has taken an interest in you and Sirius, that you should stay in the castle or on the grounds until the holidays."
"Thank you, sir. Yes, I will."
"Is there anything you wish to talk to me about, Harry? Anything at all?"
Was he talking about what Harry had done last night? Harry thought he'd better not risk it, in case he only got Ron and Hermione into trouble too. "No, sir."
Dumbledore looked him over. "Very well. I believe class is about to end, so if you would like to accompany me to the Great Hall for an early start at lunch, you may."
Harry nodded and followed Dumbledore out of his office. They had been walking for about a minute before the bell rang.
"Just on time," Dumbledore said, pleasantly.
When they arrived in the Great Hall, Dumbledore left Harry at the Gryffindor table, where Ron and Hermione were waiting.
"Does he know about last night?" Ron asked, just as Hermione said, "Is you dad all right?"
"It was about my dad. He's okay though."
Hermione looked relieved.
"You weren't expelled?"
"Don't be daft, Ron! If Dumbledore was going to expel Harry, he would have wanted to see all of us, and he certainly wouldn't have walked him to lunch. What happened with your dad, Harry? Dumbledore wouldn't have called you to his office just to say he was okay."
"Bellatrix Lestrange was disguised as a Muggle. My dad thought she was my mum. He's in St. Mungo's, but Dumbledore says he'll be okay by tomorrow. Dumbledore wanted to make sure she wasn't posing as my mum to me too."
"Oh, Harry." Hermione had tears in her eyes.
"Yeah, Hermione," Ron said, with his mouth full. "Harry's fine, his dad's fine, and we aren't in detention."
"Honestly, Ron, is not getting in detention all you care about? Harry's father could have died—"
"Well you seemed pretty keen on staying out of detention last night."
"I'm going to see Hedwig," Harry said, and left his friends to bicker.
In the Owlry, Hedwig immediately flew down to Harry. Smiling, Harry pet her white feathers. He loved Ron and Hermione, but since the second week of term, it seemed like they would get into a new fight every other day.
"Sorry, girl, no letter today."
She nipped the finger closest to her, but stayed on Harry's arm.
Harry wanted to send a letter to his dad, to find out how his father could have believed that horrible cow was his mother, but with the weekend two days away, he figured it would quicker just to wait and talk to Sirius when he got to the school.
Looking out the window, Harry saw smoke rising from Hagrid's chimney. Hagrid had given him Hedwig. Hagrid's cabin was on school grounds.
"Want to visit Hagrid, Hedwig?"
Hedwig nipped Harry's finger again, this time gently.
"Okay, let's go."
Visiting with Hargid had been fun, but short, since Harry had afternoon classes. Talking with the groundskeeper also helped settle some fears Harry hadn't realized he'd had.
Sirius was a brilliant and talented wizard, Hagrid had told him, he had been one of the best Aurors in the field. (Harry knew the only reason his father wasn't still an Auror was because he thought raising Harry was more important, but Sirius had hinted that he might return to his old job once Harry started school.) Hagrid had Harry convinced that his father wouldn't be fooled twice by Bellatrix, no matter who she was pretending to be. And thought kept him calmer that he had been as he raced to History of Magic.
Blood Traitors and Spies
"FORGIVE ME, MASTER! AHHHHHH!"
From the circle of robed and masked figures, he watched, grateful it wasn't him on in the center with the Dark Lord, being tortured. But he knew his turn would come. He had given Bellatrix the information instead of going straight to the Dark Lord. His master's wrath would turn to him next, he just knew it. He shivered, silently, watching Bellatrix's torture, wishing that if he closed his eyes her screams would be blocked out too.
"Tell me, Bellatrix, if you are my faithful servant, who told you how to get close to Black?"
"It was-" Her voice was raw and scratchy, hard to hear. "It was him." She pointed.
He trembled even harder now, although he knew this was coming.
"Oh?" The Dark Lord's red, cat-like eyes fixed on him. "And why did you not come to me with this? Since when do you report to Bellatrix? Why should you not share in her fate?"
"Master, forgive me!" He fell to his knees, and kissed the hem of the Dark Lord's robes while speaking. "I told her, yes, my Lord, and I wanted to tell you. She said not to bother you. Said you were not concerned with capturing only one blood traitor. Master, please!"
The Dark Lord's laugh was like a hiss. He turned back to Bellatrix.
His knees and arms gave out. He was lying flat on the floor, crying as he listened to his master.
"Is this true, Bellatrix? You knew I wanted Sirius Black alive, or you would have killed him. And you also know time spent on the capture of one blood traitor is time wasted, when I will have them all once I defeat that Muggle-loving fool. You not only wasted your time with this pathetic attempt to capture Black, you wasted mine! And you failed! Crucio!"
"Never again, Bellatrix. Never again will you organize an attack without my permission. Stand."
"Yes, Master, thank you, Master." Bellatrix stood on shaky legs.
"Who made you the potion you used to paralyze Black?"
"I did, my Lord," another Death Eater said, falling to his knees. "You instructed me to test my creation. When I learned of Bellatrix's plan, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity. I did not know you did not authorize her actions."
"Rise, Severus, my faithful servant."
"You have served me well over the years. Even now, when Bellatrix failed, your potion was a success. You will be rewarded for this, for Lord Voldemort rewards those who serve him well."
"Thank you, my Lord," Snape said, bowing his head.
"I am entrusting you with my most important mission, Severus. Choose three others to accompany you. The rest will leave."
"Yes, my Lord."
Without any thought, as though he had been expecting this, Snape chose Lucius, Bellatrix, and him, although he was still lying on the floor. He stood, though, when Snape picked him.
"The rest of you, get out!" the Dark Lord commanded. "You will tell no one what I am about to say," he said, when the room had cleared. "The Prophecy could not have referred to the Longbottom boy. I killed the boy. Had the Prophecy been fulfilled then, I would be unstoppable, yet Dumbledore continues to stand against me. There must another. You will find him. You will break into Hogwarts, find the book the Magical Quill writes in, and bring the names of all magical children born in 1980 to me."
"We are honored, my Lord, that you have trusted us with this," Snape said.
"I trust you, Severus. Do not disappoint me, and do not make me regret giving you the choice of whom to bring."
Sirius waited in a guest room at Hogwarts for Harry to be finished with his Friday morning classes. Thinking back, he wondered how he had gotten through to October without seeing Harry once. Sure, he had gone for a while being apart from his son before, but he had always been on Order missions then and it was hard to concentrate on missing Harry when he was preoccupied with staying alive long enough to get home.
When the door opened, Sirius smiled.
"Hey, Harry." Sirius kissed the top of Harry's head while hugging him tightly. He sat on and pulled Harry next to him, keeping an arm around his shoulders.
"What happened? Dumbledore didn't tell me much."
"No, he usually doesn't." Sirius paused. He had to tell Harry about how he had done the very thing he'd been warning Harry against for years: Believing something was true because he wanted it to be and not looking any farther. "I thought you'd want to meet your mother. Remus suggested I look around the pubs I used to frequent. She looked like you, your eyes, some of your facial structure. It didn't take her long to have me believing she was your mum. She told me everything that I wanted to hear: That she remembered me, that she wanted to know about you, that giving you up wasn't her choice." Sirius sighed. "I messed up. I should have made sure it wasn't all just a trap, but I didn't. If Dumbledore hadn't known she was an imposter, and if James hadn't have showed up when he did, I don't know what would have happened." Well, that last bit had been a lie. Sirius knew exactly what would have happened. Bellatrix would have taken him to Voldemort to torture and kill. But he didn't need to be that graphic with his kid. Harry's face told him his son was scared enough of what might have happened. He pulled Harry to him. "I'm all right now, so don't worry. I won't be falling for that again anytime soon."
"Dumbledore knew she wasn't my mum?"
Sirius nodded. "He was having Bellatrix followed ever since she showed up on the train. He knew she was posing as a Muggle woman, but didn't know why until he got my letter."
"How long are you staying?" Harry finally asked.
"Until Sunday. Why don't you tell me about what you've been up to this past week?"
Harry's embarrassed grin told Sirius everything.
"Getting into trouble already?"
"No, we got away…"
"Malfoy challenged me to a Midnight Duel and Ron said he'd be my second. So at midnight, we went to find Malfoy. Hermione came, trying to talk us out of it, saying we'd only end up in detention or expelled. But when we got to the Trophy Room, only Filch was there with his stupid cat and he knew we were coming. We got away until we ran into Peeves and he started screaming where we were. We got to the end of the corridor and the only door was locked. Hermione opened it, and we hid there until Ron noticed a giant, three-headed dog getting ready to eat us. We got out and locked the door again, and Filch was gone. When we got back to the tower, Hermione told us that the dog was on a trapdoor, guarding something. And—"
"And nothing. There are hundreds of trapdoors in this castle, most of them leading to nothing." Sirius didn't like how excited Harry sounded about the cerberus guarding something. "I don't know why Dumbledore's housing a giant monster in the school, but you're going to stay away from it. Most likely Hagrid just got a new pet and has nowhere else to keep it. So you forget about that dog, you forget about that door, and you stay away from both. Understand?"
"You haven't opened that package James and I gave you before you got on the train."
Harry looked up, surprised. "How'd you know?"
"Just a feeling."
"I forgot about it," Harry admitted. "With everything that happened on the train. It must have ended up at the bottom of my trunk."
"You haven't unpacked everything?"
"Ron hasn't either…"
"Yeah, it always took me a couple of months to everything put away after getting to school."
"When will it be over? When I got called to Dumbledore's office, I was hoping I was in trouble. You only get called to Dumbledore's office if you're in trouble or if…"
"Come here." Sirius held Harry close, rubbing his back. As much as Sirius had wished it was possible, Harry had not grown up protected from the war. Harry knew people were dying every day, he knew his family was involved with the war, he knew there were people who would try to kill him for being a blood traitor's son. He knew to be afraid; Sirius just made sure he also knew how to think while he was afraid. "No one knows when this is going to end, Harry, but I promise I won't leave you. No matter what happens, you'll always have me."
"But what if—"
"No matter what. Okay?" Sirius was holding Harry's face now, looking at his light green eyes. "Doesn't matter what you need me for, if you need me, I'll be there."
The day after Sirius left, Harry returned to his dormitory and dug through his trunk. The parcel was at the bottom. He didn't want to forget it again. Hiding it in his robes, he went to the Common Room to find his friends.
Hermione was studying while Ron doodled over his notes.
"Hey, guys, c 'mon." He showed them what he had.
"We have an important essay due Friday—"
"Who cares? Let's go, Harry."
Hermione bit her lip. "Oh, all right, but that better not have anything to do with that dog—"
Harry led his friends to a corridor that looked deserted and slipped inside an empty classroom.
"My dad and godfather gave me this before term started. He didn't tell me what it was, but he didn't want me to open it in front of my godmother. That means it's something great." He untied the wrapping. And exposed a folded, silvery cloth. "No way."
"What is it?"
"It's Uncle James' invisibility cloak." Harry threw it over his shoulders and disappeared.
"Neat! Can I try? I've always wanted one of those."
Harry took off the cloak and Ron covered himself with it.
Hermione, though, was looking at the floor. "Harry, what's that?" she asked, pointing to a small package that had apparently fallen out of the cloak.
Harry opened a mirror and read the note, smiling.
I'm sure you know what cloak that is, now that you've gotten to this letter. This is my Two-Way Mirror, you know how it works. James and I are sharing the other one, so try him if I don't answer.
Best of luck at Hogwarts!
“Hey, Lily. Is James home?” Sirius asked, entering the Potters’ kitchen.
“Upstairs. Want a cookie?” she asked, licking some frosting off her thumb. “I’m baking some for Harry, but he won’t miss one.”
“Uh, sure. Thanks.” Delicious. Like all of Lily’s baking.
“How’s he doing?”
“Harry? He was fine when I left yesterday. And none of his professors cornered me to say what a little monster I turned him into either, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Sirius said with a grin.
“Funny.” She smiled. “I meant with you ending up in St. Mungo’s.”
“I think he’s all right. A little upset at first, but that was all. And he’s got good friends, from the sound of it. As long as he’s at Hogwarts, I’m not worried. At least not as much.”
“How are you doing?”
“I hadn’t seen Bellatrix in years.” He sank into a chair. “And out of the blue, she does something like this. It almost worked, Lily. Until James got there, she had me, and it was too late for me to do anything about it. Then when I got home from St. Mungo’s, I found this.”
Lily took the note from him.
I will have the allegiance of the House of Black once more. The sooner you accept that your loyalties lie with me, the sooner I will forgive all you have done against me.
“Oh my… Sirius.”
He grabbed the note and stuffed it in a pocket. “Don’t know why I haven’t pitched it,” he muttered.
“Because it scares you.”
“I gotta go see James.”
Lily looked concerned, but Sirius didn’t care. He was more worried about what he had to say to James. He had to be.
“Hey, Prongs?” Sirius let himself into the study, where James was bent over numerous documents.
“What? What happened? Where is he?”
“No.” His best friend wasn’t going to take this well. At all. “I’m talking about the spy.”
Sirius flinched at the anger in James’ voice.
“What is it with you? You hate your family for being narrow-minded, judgmental arse-hats, then you stand there and accuse your friend because he’s a werewolf. Remus is not the spy. You need to—”
“Hear me out.”
“Why should I?”
“How else would Bellatrix have known what I was doing at that pub, or that I’d be there? Looking for Harry’s mother at Muggle pubs was Remus’ idea. And you three were the only ones who knew what I was doing. Neither of us went running to the Death Eaters, and Peter practically keels over every time we talk about Voldemort or his followers. Who else could it be?”
“It took a week for Bellatrix to find you. Maybe someone was following you, and they figured it out.”
“How likely is that?”
“More likely than Remus turning on us.”
“You really believe that? Can you honestly say you think it’s more likely that Death Eaters have been staking me out for that long without anyone noticing?”
“You didn’t seem to notice you were snogging a Death Eater.”
“She knew exactly what to tell me—”
“Wasn’t hard to guess.”
“We’ve known there was a spy since we first joined the Order. Who else fits?”
James glared. Then sat. “I don’t know.”
“Remus’ idea, to look and where to look, put me right where Bellatrix wanted me. You only got me out of there by a stroke of luck.”
Slowly James nodded. “I know. I’ve been thinking that myself. I hate thinking it, but the more I do, the more sense it makes. Remus is the spy.”
Sirius’ head whipped around, and he saw Lily standing at the door. Next to Remus. A hurt and betrayed looking Remus.
“I guess I’ll go now,” he said, and left without looking back, even when Lily pleaded with him not to go like that.
She turned to Sirius and James with a glare that made Sirius feel like he was back in his fifth year, being scolded by this red-head for pranking first years.
“How could you? What on earth could possibly have you believing Remus is a spy for Voldemort? He’s your friend. You two are disgusting, absolutely disgusting!”
“Save it! And you can stay with Sirius until you apologize to Remus,” Lily said, turning to James.
“You’re kicking me out?” he asked, disbelieving. “Lily…” He reached for her, but Lily had already left.
“I, uh, I guess I should…”
But whatever James thought he should do, Sirius never learned. James crumpled to the floor, crying harder than Sirius had ever known his friend to cry.
Sirius slowly sank to knees, rubbing James’ back.
“I’m so sorry,” he said, never having felt worse about anything. While James muttered, “Please. I love you. I love you so much. Lily. Please don’t.”
They stayed like that for what felt like days, until Lily came back, her face soaked with tears and her eyes as red as her hair. She threw herself at James.
“James, I’m sorry! Please don’t leave! I overreacted, I was angry! I love you! Please, please don’t go!”
James wrapped his arms around her fast and tight. “No, never. I love you more than anything, Lily.”
“Why did you choose me, Severus?” he asked, shaking in the cold as the two walked to the apparation point beyond the Dark Lord’s stronghold.
“The Dark Lord does not wish to you kill you. At least not yet. He seems to believe you will still be of use to him, though I cannot fathom why. You were chosen to prolong your miserable existence.”
“But I, I already killed those Muggles. Ten for each year I failed to bring useful information to him—”
“Yes, and nearly exposed yourself to that Muggle-fucking fool in the process, if I heard correctly.”
“Black is an idiot.”
A/N: Things will start moving a bit faster now that, I believe, I have everything set up for the story to end where I want it to. Reviews welcome, as always!
On the train home for Christmas break, Harry, Ron, and Hermione managed to get a compartment to themselves. Hermione was reading Hogwarts, A History, while Harry and Ron played wizard chess. Harry was losing so horribly that he had to suspect that his dad let him win all the times they had played wizard chess.
"That's totally barbaric!" Hermione said, as she watched Ron's black queen demolish Harry's white bishop.
"No it's not," Ron insisted. "Cutting people open to mess with their insides, that's barbaric," he said, referring to what Hermione had told them about Muggle 'doctors' and 'surgery'.
Harry nodded. "I think my dad would go crazy if someone tried to tell him slicing him open and jabbing his innards with pointy things was the only way they knew how to save his life."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Muggles don't have magic. If they need to fix something beneath the skin, they have to move the skin to get to it."
"And what about putting someone else's blood in your body? That's just creepy!"
"Not if it keeps you alive, Ron."
"Whatever. So, Harry, did you ask your dad about me coming over yet?"
"Not yet, but he won't mind. You're sure you can't come over, Hermione?"
"No, my parents are taking me to France, and we aren't getting back until the day before the Hogwarts Express leaves."
"How much longer until we get there? I'm starving," Ron said.
"You ate an hour ago," Hermione pointed out.
"Yeah, but not much."
"You finished off everything we got from the trolley."
"There wasn't much left, and Harry had some too."
Thankfully, the train stopped before Ron and Hermione's 'discussion' could turn into another fight.
Sirius smiled when he saw Harry come through the barrier of Platform 9¾ with his two friends. The two young wizards hugged Hermione, and headed straight for Sirius. Harry's face was already flushed from the cold, and snowflakes stuck in his hair and melted on his glasses. Sirius had to grab Harry's trolley when the wheel skidded on ice, almost causing an irritated owl and a heavy trunk to crash into the Muggles Sirius stood near. The Muggles walked away, glaring and Sirius and Harry, muttering about hooligans and parents who couldn't control their children.
"Not very in touch with the Christmas spirit, are they?" Sirius mused, extending his free arm to his grinning son.
After a quick hug, Harry said, "Dad, this is my friend Ron. Can he stay with us for a couple days?"
"Sure, if his parents are okay with it."
"Oh, hi, Mum," Ron said, to a plump witch with the same flaming, red hair as her son. Mrs. Weasley was dragging a young girl by the hand towards Ron.
"Mrs. Weasley, I presume?" Sirius said, in his most charming voice, and offered his hand to Mrs. Weasley. "I'm Sirius Black, Harry's father."
"Oh." She shook his hand quickly, then grabbed her son. "Come, Ron, your father's waiting." As she dragged her children away, Sirius thought he heard something about 'pure-blood maniacs'.
"Well, ready to go home, pup?"
Harry nodded. Sirius made sure no Muggles were in sight and shrunk Harry's trunk, then took Harry and Hedwig, in her cage, to a dark area of King's Cross Station. When Harry had a tight hold on his arm, Sirius disapparated.
"Wow." Harry looked around the living early Christmas morning. The light brown couch, which his father swore was an off-white when he bought it, had been pushed into a corner to make room for the large tree and presents surrounding it. The tree, being the only source of light, was spectacular. Colorful baubles gave the many white lights their hue, and the tinsel covering the tree only intensified the effect. Harry snuck a candycane off the tree, to enjoy before his father woke.
The fireplace came to life, and Remus Lupin stepped out of the flames.
"Uncle Remus?" Harry hadn't seen his uncle since before he left for Hogwarts.
"Happy Christmas, Harry. I didn't expect you to be up."
Harry eagerly hugged the man. "How long are you staying?" he asked, hoping his family would be together for the holiday.
"I just came to put your present under the tree. I'm sorry I can't stay longer." He kissed the top of Harry's head.
"But Aunt Lily's making a huge dinner. She's even letting Dad help."
"Sorry, kiddo, I'm not going to be able to make it this year," Remus said, with a sad smile. "Don't let that stop you from having a great holiday, though."
Harry nodded. "Okay." He was accustomed to the adults in his life having to be absent for days at a time by now.
"Do me a favor, and don't tell your dad I was here, okay? Tell him I sent an owl." He handed Harry a small parcel wrapped in shiny green paper with a red bow.
"Why?" Usually whoever was being sent on a mission wanted their well-being to be known. "Did you and Dad get into a fight?" He thought about Ron and Hermione, how they were always bickering.
"Don't worry about it. Love you."
"Love you, too," Harry said, hugging his uncle again.
Christmas dinner was amazing. Only a quarter of the turkey, some stuffing, gravy, and an assortment of vegetables remained, but the meal had been too heavy for anyone to eat more without exploding. Perhaps they could have finished it if Remus had been present. Sirius hadn't seen the werewolf since he overheard the 'traitor talk' with James. Having seen the look on Remus' face when Sirius accused him, Sirius couldn't help but feel a little guilty. Not enough to let go of his suspicion, but enough to not go to Dumbledore until more concrete evidence against Remus could be found. James, Sirius knew, had tried apologizing within the week that it happened. Remus had listened at the door, said it was okay, closed the door in James' face, and had only spoken to Lily since then. Whatever Remus said to her though, caused her to forgive Sirius and start treating him the same as ever again, for which Sirius was grateful—Lily's silent treatment was more unnerving than her yelling.
Sirius smiled at Harry when the boy yawned into his plate, then relined on the back two legs of his chair. He, Harry, James, Lily, and Peter were taking a break from food before dessert. As full as he was, Sirius was still looking forward to the pumpkin pie. But when the Headmaster knocked on the front door and let himself in, thoughts of pie were forgotten. Sirius knew from the look Dumbledore gave him that his news was not pleasant.
"Death Eaters have been sent to infiltrate Hogwarts," Albus said, once Harry had been sent from the dining area to his room.
The front two legs of Sirius' chair fell to the wood floor with a clang. "Did they get in?"
"As far as I can tell, their efforts have been unsuccessful," Dumbledore said. "I do not know what they are after. There are many artifacts in the school Voldemort could twist to his own purpose."
"Should I keep Harry home?" Sirius asked.
"I do not believe such a precaution is necessary," Dumbledore said, slowly.
"But if Voldemort is targeting the school—" Lily insisted.
Peter excused himself from the room.
"He waited until Hogwarts was mostly empty to send his servants in. I do not believe it is the children he is after. Not yet, at least."
"Then why are you here?" Sirius wanted to know.
"I wanted to give you these, in case there was ever a reason your presence was required at Hogwarts." Dumbledore pulled three wooden coins out of his pockets. "These are Portkeys to my office. The activation code is 'Fawkes.' Please keep these with you at all times." The sad twinkle in his blue eyes suggested the Headmaster knew more than he was willing to say.
To say that Sirius Black was unhappy about sending his son back to a school he knew Death Eaters were actively trying to gain access to was an understatement. True, he always knew Voldemort would target Hogwarts sooner or later, but he never planned on keeping Harry there when that time came.
But Harry had wanted to return to Hogwarts (even more so when he learned that Mrs. Weasley forbade Ron from visiting until she had a long meeting with Sirius to be sure he wasn't a dangerous maniac like most of his family turned out to be, however, she never responded to Sirius' owls inviting her and her husband over once the kids were back at school). Sirius had told Harry what Dumbledore said, and made him swear on his new broomstick—a Nimbus 2000 James had given him for Christmas that he'd had to leave at home—to stay inside the castle, except for classes, and not to leave the Gryffindor Common Room after curfew.
As Sirius watched the Hogwarts Express begin its trip to Hogwarts with Harry on board, he hoped he wouldn't need that Portkey Dumbledore had given him.
"This is a mistake," Lily said. "We should go to Hogsmeade, pick Harry up there and bring him home."
"James is with him," Sirius reminded her. James had been one of the Aurors Dumbledore had asked to be stationed at Hogwarts during the upcoming term. Since no news of the attempted break in to Hogwarts in the Daily Prophet, Sirius doubted Albus told the Ministry the truth, but he supposed that Dumbledore didn't really have to. After all, how many angry letters and Howlers would the Ministry get from enraged parents who learned security had been denied to their children when the Headmaster asked?
"That really makes you feel better?"
Sirius shrugged. He knew Lily wasn't having a go at James, but he still didn't want to tell her it didn't make him feel better at all. James would protect Harry like his own son, but that didn't make Sirius feel any better about not being able to see that Harry was safe with his own eyes, or not being able to protect his son himself. Apparently, Lily felt the same.
"What was Dumbledore thinking?"
"Kids still need an education. And even with that lovely tidbit Dumbledore dropped on us, most of them are still safer at Hogwarts than at home." Sirius hoped Lily would drop the subject soon. He was finding it almost impossible not to simply agree with her and head off to the Three Broomsticks until the train got to the Hogsmeade station.
"Would you mind if I stayed with you? I'll go crazy if I'm in that house by myself day and night for the next month."
Sirius smiled and wrapped an arm around her. "No problem."
"How do you do it?" Lily finally asked.
"Your life. You're a single parent fighting in a war against your crazy relatives who'd love nothing more than to hurt you and Harry in every way they know how. But you're still the same Sirius Black I met at Hogwarts."
"I'm hurt, Lily. You hated the Sirius Black you met at Hogwarts." He pouted.
She laughed. "You know what I mean," she said, lightly punching him in the chest. "You are a better man now than you were then, but you're still every bit as caring and loyal. How do you hold it all together?"
"Apparently not too well. I recently accused a lifelong friend of plotting to kill us all, or did you forget?"
"So you agree you were wrong about Remus?"
"No. Not quite. But I don't think I should have said anything without something more substantial than conspiracy theories to back it up."
Lily huffed. "There really is no changing you."
"Really, though, I'm not holding together. I keep having nightmares of Bellatrix with her disgusting fingers around Harry's throat. Not being able to check on him is killing me."
"Have you gotten any more letters?"
"No. And before you ask, I haven't shown it to Dumbledore." He still had that threatening note crumpled in his pocket, but he hadn't shown it to anyone after Lily.
"He could help."
"Yeah, help put Harry and me into hiding. Bellatrix already made it clear she wants to purge the family tree. This war's not going to be won any sooner with us holing our own people up. And I'm not raising Harry like that. He's sheltered enough. Our house is already Unplottable, we've got protective wards up, no one outside of the Order knows where we live. All that's missing is the Fidelius Charm. I've considered it, I've considered it a lot recently, but I'd rather not resort to it, and as long as Harry's at Hogwarts I see no need to do so."
"What about over the summer? Someone inside the Order is a spy."
"I'll talk to Dumbledore after Harry takes his exams."
"Good," Lily said. "I do wish you would use the charm sooner though. James isn't the only one who'd be upset if anything happened to you."
"I've got a better idea. Why don't we rent a couple of rooms in Hogmeade? Just for a few months."
Lily raised an eyebrow. "If Dumbledore wanted us that close to Hogwarts he would have asked."
"He doesn't have to know. He still doesn't know about the Marauders being Animagus."
"Yeah, you guys, not me."
"Lily. I'm living proof that Dumbledore doesn't know everything that goes on at Hogwarts. We'll fix up a couple rooms in the Shrieking Shack and camp out there. No one will know, the village still believes that place is haunted."
Lily pulled away from him. After a moment, she said, "All right. I must be insane, listening to you, but all right. Let's do it."
Sneaking into the Shrieking Shack with shrunken cases of clothes, food, and other necessities had been easier than Sirius expected. He grinned madly, looking around the old Marauder hangout filled with dust and broken furniture, just how he remembered it. Except for the footprints in the dust. He drew his wand and pressed a finger against his lips.
Lily took out her wand.
A cackling laugh carried down from upstairs. Bellatrix, Sirius was certain. He hoped she was alone. He and Lily turned towards the exit, but a masked Death Eater blocked their path. Sirius and Lily let a stunning and a disarming spell fly at the one blocking their path, but a third Death Eater magically bound them both from behind and took their wands.
Bellatrix entered the room, her heels kicking up dust. She laughed gleefully as she took her enemies' wands and ennervated her stunned fellow Death Eater.
A/N: Sorry for not getting this up as quickly as I have been. Had a couple of papers I needed to get done. Not nearly as fun to write as this.
WARNING: This chapter contains torture. Nothing overly graphic, but I thought I'd put up a warning for anyone who doesn't like reading that stuff. There is a line of asterisks marking the beginning and end of the torture scene for anyone who doesn't want to read it. The chapter can be read without it.
A/N: Thanks for all the reviews! Let me know what you think!
Escaping the Shrieking Shack
"So, Dumbledore's little spies come to keep us out of Hogwarts?"
Merlin, his cousin's voice was annoying. Sirius and Lily had been shoved against a wall, still bound and gagged. The three Death Eaters, two masked, stood before them.
"Why don't you tell us how you found us, and we'll kill you once you ask, hm?" Bellatrix asked in a mockingly pleasant voice.
"We cannot kill them, you fool," one of the masked Death Eaters said. Sirius thought his voice sounded familiar, but he couldn't place it. "The Dark Lord needs the Mudblood to get Potter, and he wants Black alive."
"Oh, spoiling my fun." The demented witch laughed. "I'm certain you'll be begging to tell me what you know before long."
"Let's start with Black," the same Death Eater suggested. Sirius could hear the sneer behind the mask.
"Why would we do that?" Bellatrix asked. "We have a Mudblood right here." Sirius had wondered once or twice if his family hated him or Muggleborns more. Now he knew, but he never wanted to find out at Lily's expense. Bellatrix grabbed Lily's red hair, yanked the cloth tied around her mouth away, and threw her to the center of the room.
Lily coughed when thick dust billowed up around her. "Go to hell, bitch, I'm not telling you anything."
Bellatrix laughed again. "But you will, wittle Mudblood. Crucio!"
Sirius looked away. He wished he didn't have to hear her scream.
"I could make this all stop. The Dark Lord has made you generous offers in the past. Perhaps if I tell him what a good little Mudblood you've been, he'll make you another."
Through Lily's heavy breathing, Sirius heard her proclaim just what Voldemort could do with his 'generous offer.' Bellatrix crucioed her again.
Sirius had to stop this. He couldn't just sit there while these bloodthirsty maniacs tortured his best friend's wife, the woman he looked at like a sister. But what could he do, tied up and wandless?
"What were you sent here to do?"
Lily's soft crying made Sirius wish he could trade her blood with his, just so Bellatrix would leave her alone. But Lily's fiery spirit that James loved so much was strong.
"I won't tell you anything. Why don't you go back to the hole you crawled out of!"
"You should be nicer to me. I can make your life more painful than it already is. Or your pathetic husband's. What do you think he would do if I sent him some of your hair?"
"Leave him alone!"
Sirius strained furiously against his bonds and bit at his gag.
"Tell me why you were sent here!"
"Please! Please, stop!" Lily begged.
"While amusing, this does not seem to be the most effective of interrogations," the second masked Death Eater finally spoke up.
"What do you have in mind?" Bellatrix snapped.
"You are the most skilled and creative of the Dark Lord's followers when it comes to the Cruciatus Curse, Bellatrix, but why waste your magic on a sniveling Mudblood? She's a Muggle, why don't we torture her like one?"
The first Death Eater left the room when Bellatrix grinned.
The ropes tying Lily fell away, but she only laid on the floor. "No…"
The masked Death Eater grabbed Lily's wrist. "Talk, Mudblood."
He forced a thin piece of wood beneath her fingernail, and Lily cried out. Sirius struggled harder. Another bit of wood, another fingernail, another scream. The Death Eater dropped Lily's bleeding hand, and raised a whip.
Sirius had to stop this. Now. He didn't know how long he watched in horror as the Death Eater struck Lily with the whip before he finally bit through his gag. "Stop! Stop! I'll tell you whatever you want to know! Just stop!"
The Death Eater lowered his whip. Bellatrix stepped around the bloody dust covering the floor around Lily. Lily shivered and cried.
"Tell me, dear cousin, why did that Muggle-loving fool send you here?"
"Dumbledore wanted to find the idiots who thought they could sneak into Hogwarts. He sent others to different parts of Hogsmeade. We were due back a while ago."
"Liar!" Bellatrix struck him across the face, her sharp nails left deep cuts in his cheek.
Did Bellatrix learn Legilimency? Shit.
Bellatrix grabbed the whip from her companion. Now there were many ends to it, each one with a bit of metal glinting at the tip. Sirius braced himself, but better him than—
Bellatrix turned to Lily.
"No! No, wait! Don't!"
Lily had tried to pull herself into the fetal position, but Bellatrix kicked her body out.
Lily screamed, cried, pleaded with Bellatrix to stop, begged James to come save her. But Bellatrix kept attacking her madly, kicking her over to expose whatever part of her body Lily tried to hide.
Sirius had one chance. He pushed down the guilt at not thinking of this before, and prayed to whatever gods might be listening that it would work. That they wouldn't be prepared for this.
And the ropes slid off his dog's body. Without wasting another moment, he jumped and sunk his large, canine teeth into Bellatrix's wand arm.
She screamed now, and tried to shake Sirius off. His strong jaw gripped harder, until he felt her bones crunch between his teeth. Her wand dropped.
Sirius let go and transformed. He grabbed the wand. Without pausing to spit the blood from his mouth, Sirius fired every hex and curse he knew at Bellatrix and the other Death Eater. And suddenly, he was an Auror again. He dodged every curse thrown back at him without pausing his attack. He kept himself in front of Lily so no stray curse would find her. The Death Eaters were forced to step back.
Until ropes snaked around his body.
Sirius had forgotten the third Death Eater.
"Morphing ropes, Black, invented especially for Animagus. You're little trick won't work again."
Bellatrix kicked him in the face, cradling her mauled arm. "We'll take them to the Dark Lord tomorrow when we report. Tie the Mudblood back up!"
Lily was bound again, and they were both thrown against the wall, this time, thankfully, not gagged. They were left alone when Bellatrix took the other two Death Eaters to help mend her arm.
"Lily! Lily, say something." She was leaning more against him than the wall, and Sirius could feel her blood seeping into his clothes. Her hands were behind her back, just like his. "Lily, listen to me. You have to reach into my robes. The Portkey is in my front pocket. Can you do that? Lily?" He moved, carefully, to get his pocket closer to her hands.
Slowly, ever so slowly, Lily's fingers pushed into his pocket. Every slight movement caused her to whimper in pain.
Sirius heard Bellatrix threaten to pull out his teeth and promise to hurt him tenfold what she did to Lily.
"Lily, come on, hun, we need to get out before they come back."
"I know, I know, but I need your help to get us out of here."
"James…" Her head drooped.
"Love, I'll get you to James, but you have to get the Portkey first." He glanced nervously at the door Bellatrix had disappeared behind.
Sirius heard the plunk of wood on wood and turned to scoop the little coin off the floor. He held the Portkey out to Lily.
"I need your hand now, come on, Lily, just give me your hand and we'll be out of here."
"What are you doing?" One of the masked Death Eaters decided to check in on them. He pulled out his wand.
Lily's hand was in his, over the Portkey. "Fawkes!" Sirius shouted, and felt a tug at his navel.
They landed in Dumbledore's office, just as the Headmaster said they would, still tied and—in Lily's case—bloodied, but safe. Dumbledore wasn't alone in his office, every Auror that had been stationed at Hogwarts was there too, in a meeting with the Headmaster. They all stared at Lily and Sirius.
"Lily!" James rushed forward.
With a flash from Dumbledore's wand, every Auror except James and Kingsley Shacklebolt headed out of the office discussing breakfast plans and the weather.
"Kingsley, send for Poppy and alert the Order," Dumbledore said. He flicked his wand again, and the ropes around Sirius and Lily fell off.
James' robes were off, and he wrapped them around his wife. "What—what happened?"
"James…" Lily leaned into her husband's arms, crying.
Sirius stared at the floor. This was all his fault. He had suggested they go to the Shrieking Shack. He hadn't gotten them out before Bellatrix caught them. He hadn't thought to transform until they had tortured Lily severely. He was the reason his best friend had to see his wife appear before him barely conscious, hurt, and covered in a coat of her own blood.
"She is only unconscious, James. Poppy will be here shortly. Sirius, what happened?"
"Bellatrix," Sirius choked out. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I should have gotten her out sooner."
"I'm not waiting." Sirius could hear the tears James was trying to hold back. James picked Lily up as carefully as he could and waited only long enough to readjust his robes over her shivering and still bleeding body to carry her out.
Dumbledore placed a hand on Sirius' shoulder.
By the time Dumbledore got the story of what happened and convinced Sirius to walk down to the Hospital Wing, Lily was sleeping behind a curtain. James sat by her side, holding one of her hands with both of his.
"Madam Pomfrey says she'll be all right." James only looked at Sirius for a moment.
Lily looked infinitely better than she had in Dumbledore's office. The blood had been washed from her body and the smaller cuts had been healed. The deep cuts were still visible, deeper ones were bandaged, sweat plastered her fiery hair down, and she was unusually pale, but she was sleeping soundly.
"She got a Calming Draught, a Dreamless Sleep Potion, some pain reducers. She'll be asleep for a while."
"You said Bellatrix did this?"
James brought Lily's hand to his lips. "If I ever come across her again, I'll kill her."
The calmness in James' voice was unnerving.
"Look at Lily!" he hissed, glaring at Sirius. "Look at what that- that-" James must have been unable to find a word horrible enough to do justice to what he felt towards Bellatrix. "Just look at her!"
"What is going on out here?" Poppy Pomfrey came out of her office. "Mr. Black!" She got Sirius into the bed next to Lily on the other side of James and shoved a potion down his throat. She rounded on James. "And if you don't keep your voice down, Mr. Potter, I'll send you out. I have sick patients to care for."
If looks could kill, Dumbledore would have needed to hire a new school nurse.
The last thing Sirius felt before falling asleep himself was James' hand on his shoulder.
"Thanks for getting her away."
But it was his fault…
"YOU LET THEM ESCAPE! CRUCIO!"
If he thought the curse hitting all four of them at once would lessen the blow, he was wrong.
"FAIL ME AGAIN AND I WILL NOT BE SO FORGIVING!"
The Dark Lord had yet to lift the curse.
"Dumbledore has known of your feeble attempt to enter Hogwarts since you first failed, and every time you disappoint me, he redoubles the protection around the castle! I must have those names! You will bring me the book! The next time you fail will be your last!"
Thankfully, the Dark Lord released them from the curse.
"Master!" Bellatrix cried, as the Dark Lord left.
Snape tried to rise on shaky legs, but collapsed. "The only objective we did not manage to fail was keeping your identity hidden from the Order. Make certain that does not change!"
When Sirius woke, the scratches Bellatrix left on his face were healed. Lily was still asleep. And Remus Lupin was walking through the infirmary doors.
"I heard what happened," Remus said to James, with his back to Sirius. He placed three large, pink daisies wrapped in simple, white tissue paper on Lily's bedside table and sat next to James. "How is she?"
"Better. She's getting some color back, and her fever's down. I don't know if she hasn't woken up because of the potions or because she's passed out. When she wakes up, I'm taking her home."
Sirius didn't know what he should say to Remus. Did he still believe his childhood friend was a traitor? After all, like Remus had led him to the Muggle pub, he had been the one to lead Lily to the Shrieking Shack, and he certainly wasn't passing information to Voldemort. But who else could it be?
A/N: Here it is. The one you've all been waiting for. Plesae review! I'm starting to miss them. Thanks to those of you who have reviewed!
It Is Time
After months, months, of thinking he wouldn't live to see this day, it finally happened. Severus Snape had used his, Peter Pettigrew's, knowledge of Hogwarts castle and animagus form to their advantage, and the four Death Eaters had finally achieved their goal. There, before them, in a tiny, out-of-the-way classroom, was the Book written in by the Magic Quill. The Quill lay dormant on a single desk next to the open Book. When the Quill sprang to life and wrote in the Book on its own, Peter sighed in relief. They had done it. After five months of disappointing their Master, Peter finally knew the Dark Lord would not abruptly end their mission and hand it to someone else. He could finally give the Dark Lord the exact information he wanted.
"Don't get ahead of yourselves," Snape warned, when Bellatrix Lestrange giggled at the Quill setting itself back down. "We need to get out to be of any use to the Dark Lord."
Slowly, painfully slowly, Snape flipped the book to year 1980.
Peter gasped at the one name that stood out. The one name that was wrong. Harry Potter. 31st July 1980. That was the day Sirius' son was born. But there was no Harry Black in the roster. Not even another name listed as being born 31st July.
"My worthless cousin's brat is missing," Bellatrix observed.
"No," Peter said. "I think he's Harry Potter."
Sirius raced through the halls of Hogwarts with Lily and James at his side, horrible scenarios running through his mind, each worse than the last. Harry's grades had taken a tragic turn for the worst and he was being expelled. Harry had gotten into trouble one too many times and was being expelled. Harry had been terribly injured in his Flying Lessons. Harry had been blown up in Potions. Death Eaters had entered the castle and Harry was in their way. Death Eaters had entered the castle and Bellatrix was with them. Bellatrix was, perhaps at this moment, wrapping her eerily long fingers around Harry's neck.
No. Dumbledore would never have allowed Death Eaters to enter the school, no matter how badly they wanted in. Harry's just been falling asleep in too many classes, that's all. Sirius quickened his pace.
Dumbledore stood over his desk, looking into a deep Penseive. He didn't even look up when Sirius practically shouted, demanding to know what happened to his son. Finally, after using his wand to pull a silver strand from his temple to the basin, he raised his head, giving all three of his former students a sad smile. The blue eyes behind half-moon spectacles were void of any twinkle.
"Please sit," he said. "There is much I need to tell you."
"Harry! What about Harry!" Sirius insisted.
"All you told us was that this concerned him. Is my godson all right?" James gripped the back of a chair until his knuckles turned white.
"Please, Albus, just tell us if Harry's safe," Lily almost begged.
"Harry is safe, but before I continue, I must ask that you all be seated."
Sirius' sigh of relief combined with James' and Lily's, and they all sat.
"To ensure Harry's continued safety, I must undo the measures taken to protect him as a baby," Dumbledore said, monotonously.
"What measures?" Sirius asked. The only measures he knew of were protective wards around his house. Taking those down in the middle of a war certainly wouldn't increase Harry's chance of survival much. Wait. Dumbledore didn't mean... Had putting Harry with with his father, with Sirius, been a protective measure? Dumbledore certainly didn't intend to try taking Harry away. Besides being highly illegal to forcibly remove a child from a competent (which Sirius was) parent's care, Sirius would never allow someone to come take his son away. He knew James wouldn't either. And definitely not Lily.
Dumbledore sighed heavily. "If you need the assistance of my memories in the Penseive, please do not hesitate to ask. This will be difficult enouh for you to accept."
Sirius wished the old Headmaster would stop looking at him that way. And was that pity in the old wizard's eyes?
"When Harry was born, I performed complex memory charms on three of the five people who were aware of the circumstances surrounding Harry's birth. Four of us are in this office, and the fifth is Harry himself. As he would have been too young to consciously remember anything that happened, I left his memories unaltered. Your altered memories have kept Harry safe from Lord Voldemort for the past eleven years, but now Voldemort knows the truth. To keep Harry safe, you must also know. It is time I remove the memory charms."
'Circumstances surrounding Harry's birth'? What could that mean? Sirius didn't want to know. He wanted to keep his memory charms in place and forget he ever learned they were there.
With complex motions of his wand and spells muttered too fast for Sirius catch, Dumbledore removed the memory charms from Lily.
Her hands flew to her mouth as she gasped. She looked at Sirius with the saddest look he had ever seen. Her eyes were wide, pitying, and afraid. The fingers in front of her mouth could not hide the small smile beginning to bloom, a smile that obviously was not connected to the feelings Sirius saw in her eyes.
No... Dumbledore might have implied something, but Sirius would not let Lily's reaction confirm what he inferred. Harry, his son, was... Harry. His son. Harry Black. His son. Harry...
The way James grasped the arms of his chair when his memories were made known to him, the way James' mouth hung open in shock and disbelief, only painfully tightened the knot in Sirius' stomach.
He didn't want to know. Harry. His son. Harry. His son. Harry. His turn.
Before he could tell Dumbledore to stop, his memories of holding Harry for the first time came flooding back. Rushing to Godric's Hollow where James presented him with a baby... Hearing about the Prophecy that put James' son in danger... Agreeing to help protect the baby in the way his parents thought best... Seeing the baby's emerald eyes turn a lighter green and his little bit of hair grow a little bit thicker... Promising the baby's name would be Harry James... Consenting to the memory charms...
This could not be real. This could not be real. This could NOT be real!
"NO!" Sirius fell out of his chair. His best friends seemed unsure if they should approach him or leave him be. He was going to be sick.
Harry. His son. Harry. His son. HIS SON!
Sirius half-crawled to the door leading to Dumbledore's private bathroom. Tears and vomit were emptied into the magnificent toilet.
This wasn't happening. Nonono... Anything but this.
Harry was the best thing he had ever done. Harry was the one he loved the most. Harry was the reason he finally started growing up. Harry was the one thing his life revolved around. Harry was Harry James Black, his son.
Harry James Potter was wrong. All wrong. Sirius' cheek rested against the cool rim of the toilet bowl. He had exhausted himself, but he still found the energy to cry. At that moment, it didn't matter that deep down he know James was his best friend and he wouldn't prevent Sirius from being included in every aspect of Harry's life. All that mattered was that Harry wasn't his.
But Harry was his. Harry had to be his! What else could he be to Harry besides 'Dad'? There was nothing else. 'Padfoot'? 'Godfather'? 'Uncle Sirius'? No. All of those were wrong. Just like Harry Potter was wrong. Harry Black. Dad.
He hated James. James was 'Dad'. He hated Lily. Lily was 'Mum'. What was he? He was the man without a son. Without his son. Oh, Harry... And now he hated his best friends. No, he couldn't hate them. They were his best friends. He had to think of Harry...
Oh Merlin, what would Harry think?
He prayed Harry wouldn't hate him. Knowing the truth hadn't made Sirius love his son any less. He prayed Harry would understand that.
When his tears started dying down, Sirius felt a small, comforting hand rub his back and a cool, damp cloth pressed against his forehead. Lily.
"I promise you won't lose him," she whispered. "We'll never take him from you."
Sirius cried harder than before. He'd already lost Harry.
"Mate..." James. But Sirius didn't want to hear what James had to say. He didn't want to hear Lily anymore either. He wanted to wake up in bed and find this was all a dream.
"Let me be," Sirius finally said.
The Potters left but kept the door open. Sirius found that he would rather look at the contents of the unflushed toilet than his friends.
"How does Voldemort know?" Lily asked.
"One of his Death Eaters informed me. He told me how he led three of his fellows into Hogwarts and saw Harry's name in the Book of Accepted Students. When they reported their find to Lord Voldemort, he declared he would kill both of you and Harry to prove no one can fool him. This man felt guilty for causing Voldemort to target his old schoolmates, and agreed to become a spy for the Order at great personal risk."
"Was he the spy?" James asked.
"No. He was unable to reveal the identity of the spy."
Sirius snorted from the bathroom. This 'Death Eater turned Order spy' sounded like a sure way to get killed to him.
"My suggestion," Dumbledore continued, "remains the same as twelve years ago. Go into hiding with Harry under the Fedilas Charm."
"What about Sirius?" Lily asked, quietly. Sirius still heard. She was fulfilling her promise already. Sirius was glad James was never stupid enough to let her go.
"That will be up to both of you, Harry, and, of course, Sirius."
"I'll do it," Sirius said. He pushed himself to his knees, away from the toilet. "Be your Secret Keeper." Even if he couldn't be Harry's father, he would still preform his fatherly duty and protect Harry with his life. But he wouldn't sit in hiding watching his son learn to call another man 'Dad'. Die for Harry? In a heartbeat. Accept that James was Harry's father? Never. Harry was his son. His pup.
Before anyone could answer, a frantic Harry rushed into the office.
"What happened?" Harry was panting; he must have taken the stairs at a run. "Where's Dad?"
Sirius' heart panged at hearing Harry refer to him as 'Dad'. How long would that last?
"Right here." Sirius wiped his mouth with the damp cloth Lily left. He walked past his friends and pulled Harry close to him before anyone else reached the boy. His pup. "I love you, Harry." Sirius desparately fought against his tears. Weren't they dried up yet? "No matter what, I love you. You're my pup, and that will never change. Okay?"
"Yeah... What's going on?"
Harry took an angry, shaky step back. They lied. All of them. About everything. Since before he could remember. "You... All of you!" His voice was rising, but Harry didn't care. "My life... my whole life... You LIED!"
"Harry--" His au-her looked desparate to hold him as she held her hand out.
"Sweetie, we only wanted you to be safe--"
"So you gave me away! Made my whole life a lie! And YOU!" he rounded on Sirius, the man he believed was-loved as-his father. "You let them! YOU LIED TOO!"
"Harry, please, pup-"
"NO! NONONONONO! I HATE YOU! I HATE ALL OF YOU!" Harry fled from the office.
He tried to block out the three adults calling after him, like his tears blocked out his vision.
He wasn't watching where he was going. He didn't care. He just wanted to get away. He needed to. His father told him he loved him, then that his entire life was a lie. His name wasn't Harry Black, he didn't even look the way he thought he did! Stupid charms to change his appearance. Stupid charms that altered memories. Stupid... everyone! What was that word his fa-Sirius had let slip? The one he made Harry promise never to repeat? He wished he could remember. He'd say it now. He'd use to describe Sirius and Lily and James. And Dumbledore. All of them.
"Oof!" Harry was pushed to the floor when he bumped into a short, balding, overweight man. His Uncle Peter. His anger peaked at seeing another member of his 'family'.
"What's wrong, Harry?" Uncle Peter asked, extending a hand to help Harry up.
Harry wasn't so angry then, at least not at his uncle. Peter didn't know what everyone who ever claimed to be his parent did. He took his uncle's hand and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet.
"Everything," Harry admitted.
"Do you want to talk? I'll take you to Hogsmeade. We can sit in the Three Broomsticks, have a butterbeer. Would that be all right? To talk there?"
Harry would have rather talked about this with Uncle Remus, as he had never been particularly close to Peter, but he had no idea where Remus was. And he'd rather be talking to Uncle Peter than anyone he left in Dumbledore's office. He nodded.
"Harry! Are you okay?" Hemione rushed up to them out of nowhere. "It wasn't your dad, was it?"
Harry's light green eyes flashed at the mention of his 'father'. "I'm fine, Hermione, just going to Hogsmeade with my uncle Peter."
"Oh! Hello." Apparently she hadn't noticed Peter standing next to Harry.
"Yes, well, want to get him back before dinner," Uncle Peter said, patting Harry's shoulder.
"Okay... Are you sure you're all right, Harry?"
He nodded and forced a smile. He would talk to her eventually, Ron too, but for now Harry needed to get out of the castle and talk to a member of his family he could still trust.
Although Dumbledore's advice to let Harry come to terms with everything on his own before trying to talk to him had stayed Lily and James, who didn't want to push their... Harry farther away, Sirius couldn't stand in that office and wait. He didn't like the truth any more than Harry did, and he would never be able to accept it if that meant Harry hated him. Harry didn't really hate him, did he? He was just speaking out of anger, right?
Sirius raced through the halls, trying to figure out where Harry might have gone. He didn't have that much of a head start, Sirius left only a few minutes after Harry. Sirius skidded to a halt when he saw Gryffindor with bushy, brown hair.
"Hey, girl! Harry's friend!" He knew her name but didn't care to remember.
"Mr. Black? Is Harry all right?"
"Do you know where he is?" Sirius practically pleaded.
"I just saw him. He was with someone, his Uncle Peter, he said. They wered going to Hogsmeade."
What was Peter doing at Hogwarts? He wasn't on any assignment from Dumbledore, and it wasn't like he had a clue as to what was happening in the Headmaster's office.
It couldn't be? Could it? Could Peter have known what was going on? Could Peter have planned to run into Harry? Could Peter be the spy?
And it all fell into place. Peter's long absences when he wasn't on a mission. Peter always wanting to know every detail about Order plans but doing everything in his power not to be involved with them. Peter being more afraid when talking about the spy than Voldemort. That time he found Peter at the site of a Muggle slaughtering, the first to arrive, with his wand out. Remus denied setting Sirius up to meet Clarissa, but Peter had been there for the plans too.
Forgive me, Remus. I'm coming, Harry.
Using every secret passage and shortcut he knew, Sirius ran to Hogsmeade.
The small town was bustling with students enjoying the last Hogsmeade weekend of the school year. They glared at Sirius and made rude comments as he shoved them aside, searching for Harry.
There! Close to the enterance of the Three Broomsticks. Peter put an arm around Harry's shoulders, steering him away from the pub.
"PETTIGREW! LET GO OF MY SON!" Sirius roared, whipping out his wand.
They spun around. Harry looked ready to shout something back, but Peter only grinned. He grabbed Harry's elbow.
Sirius dropped his wand and launched himself forward as Peter began to turn on the spot. His hand closed around a fistfull of Peter's robes as Peter apparated Harry away.
A/N: First of all, yes, I'm horrible for leaving off there. Second, this story is coming to an end. There are two, maybe three, chapters left. Unless a sudden bout of inspiration takes me beyond what I've been planning since I started writing this story. Always possible. Anyways, I've been thinking of doing a sequel. What do you think? I know none of you know how the story ends yet, but knowing that it will be over in two or three chapters, would you like to see more?
Also, if you have any questions about the chapter or story, please ask. If I left something out that needs an explanation, I probably won't notice until someone points it out.
A/N: Thanks for all the great reviews! Sorry for the long wait. There will be one more chapter after this one.
On the Brink
Without checking to see if he was splinched--which, thankfully, he wasn't--Sirius jumped up from the cold floor, grabbed Harry and wrenched him away from Peter, thrust his hand into Harry's pocket, pulled out his son's poplar wand, and blasted Pettigrew into the stone-block wall.
A thick, red smear was left behind from Pettigrew's head as he slid to the floor.
"What happened?" Harry asked, staring at Pettigrew's limp body. He stepped closer to Sirius.
"He was the spy," Sirius growled.
"Where are we?"
The corridor was long, narrow, built of cold, colorless stone, and stank like death. Or maybe that was Pettigrew's blood pooling around his head. "Don't know, but we're not staying long enough to find out." If Harry wasn't with him, Sirius would stay long enough to finish the traitor off. Maybe he'd come back. He held out his arm to Harry, who clung to it. At least Harry's anger seemed to have been scared out of him. Sirius disapparated. Or tried to disapparate.
Insane laughter. Bellatrix. "Do you really think the Dark Lord allows his prinsoners to simply apparate out of his dungeon, Cousin?" She disapparated and appeared closer to Sirius. "You need a Dark Mark to leave alive from this dungeon."
Sirius pulled Harry behind him and backed into the wall. "Piss off!" He felt Harry clutching his robes, shaking a little. He held the wand tighter.
Bellatrix deflected the nonverbal spells sent her way and disarmed Sirius, who couldn't move without exposing Harry. By now, more Death Eaters began filling the corridor, surrounding Sirius and Harry.
Sirius was still shouting as loud as he could. The Death Eaters had locked him in this tiny, dirty cell and taken Harry Merlin-only-knows where. He knew his throat would pay for his shouts soon enough, but until then, he'd keep yelling.
"Really, shouting will only make it worse."
"YOU! I'LL KILL YOU, TRAITOR! WHERE'S MY SON?"
For once in his miserable excuse for a life, Pettigrew didn't seem terrified. "But he's not your son."
Sirius slammed into the bars of his cell and let loose every curse he knew.
Sirius imagined a giant mouse trap snapping on his neck.
"You know, the more you scream, the more she'll make him scream."
Sirius quieted long enough to hear what the bastard meant. Faintly, from somewhere above him, he heard screaming. Harry screaming. In pain.
"She won't kill him."
How could that traitor sound so calm?
"Our Master gave orders that the Potter boy was to be left alive. For aiding in finding him, we're allowed to do whatever we want, as long as the Potter boy is alive at the end of it."
Sirius felt sick. He knew what his twisted cousin was capable of, and now she had Harry, and permission to torture Harry all she wanted. He had to get out. He had to save his son!
"I only came down here to ask what you think I should do with Harry."
A threatening growl escaped Sirius' throat.
"After all, I didn't get to practice on the Mudblood in the Shrieking Shack. I had to stay out of sight while the others had all the fun."
"Shut up! Keep away from my son!"
"I never realized you were so stupid, Black. He's not your son."
Sirius screamed and rushed into the bars so violently that Pettigrew took a step back, his smug, unafraid look faltering for a moment. But only for a moment.
"I'll give Harry your regards, shall I?"
Sirius yelled until Pettigrew was out of sight, then sank to his knees and cried. "Stop! Stop!" He banged the bars as he was forced to listen to Harry's screams.
This was what they had been trying to prevent, eleven years ago. This was why Harry grew up calling him 'Dad'. And what was it all for? Voldemort had Harry, and Death Eaters were torturing his son while he sat crying in a cell. He couldn't even protect his own son.
'He's not your son.'
He'd kill that rat if it was the last thing he even did. And Bellatrix. And Voldemort. And every other Death Eater he ever came across. But first, he'd save Harry.
Three days. Three long, miserable days.
James was reclined in his bed, and he rolled Sirius' lost wand between his hands, as he had taken to doing these past three days. The Order had never found where Voldemort kept his prisoners, only the discarded bodies of those he tortured. Images of those bodies with the face of his best friend and his godson... Harry... his Harry plagued his mind. For the first time as a fully trained Auror, James had completely lost control the day before. When he and three other Aurors found a Death Eater, James demanded information. When the Death Eater refused to answer, James had beaten the man so bloody he was now on forced leave from work, and Dumbledore had reassigned him from actively searching with the Order to looking over maps of the possible locations of Sirius and Harry.
How could everything have gone so wrong?
He remembered now all the months of stroking and kissing Lily's expanding stomach, and the short time when he held Harry and knew the boy was his, actually his. At the time, giving Harry to Sirius had seemed like the best way to keep him safe. James had never lost his fatherly feelings for Harry; sometimes he had even hoped--however guiltily--that Harry would accidentally call him 'Dad' the way he occasionally called Lily 'Mum' by mistake, just to see how it felt to be 'Dad', but he never did.
Sirius was 'Dad'. Sirius would always be 'Dad' to Harry. James had given up his son to keep him safe, and now his son was missing, along with his most trusted friend.
I hate you! I hate all of you! Would those be the last words he ever heard from Harry, from his son?
For years, he had been the strong one in his marriage. He wanted a child just as much as his wife. When he'd dream of his life with Lily, he always had children with her, children who were every bit as wonderful as Harry. For years, he had pushed his own tears back when Lily cried after a failed pregnancy test, or when she came home from visiting her sister and her nephew, or the nights after Harry would apologize for calling her 'Mum', and especially the days she thought of the child they had lost months before the baby was due.
But now, Lily was the one pulling them through. She had been out all day for the past three days, searching. Both nights, she hadn't come home until the early morning, and she left again at dawn. The few hours she was home, she didn't sleep; she held James while he cried.
All this because of one of his 'friends'. James had trusted his three friends with his life. Even when Sirius was trying to convince him that Remus was the spy, he hadn't tried apologizing because Lily was upset; James had still trusted him deep down, like he always trusted his friends. And now that trust of the rat, ha, rat!, might cost his godson's life... his son's life... and his best friend's life.
He might be losing it, but Lily would see them through. Harry and Sirius would be found and brought home safe.
"James!" Lily burst into the bedroom. "Dumbledore found where they're being held!"
James jumped up and stashed Sirius' wand in his pocket.
Harry didn't know how long he had been held in this terrible place, but he wished more than anything that his father would come and save him. The Death Eaters had chained him to the floor and hadn't left him alone since. Someone was always there, hurting him. Even when they made him drink murky water or disgusting, mushy food, they hurt him.
All Harry did, it seemed, was cry, beg them to stop, and scream for his father.
At first, he had been most afraid of his father's cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange. He had even wet himself when she fist entered the room. But she hadn't been the worst. The worst was his ex-Uncle Peter. Peter would say horrible things about his father and godparents while he hurt Harry, and say that soon he would hurt them too. Harry quickly came to prefer Bellatrix over his traitorous 'uncle'.
When the Death Eaters did lead his father into the empty room, it was the first time Harry felt any bit of hope since he had been taken from Sirius in the corridor.
"Time to go, Black. The Dark Lord has requested your presence."
When a few masked Death Eaters came to open his cell door, Sirius tried to push past them, but one of them tripped him up with a spell, and he fell into their grasp. They forced his arms behind him, and shoved him ahead of them.
They led Sirius to an old, wooden door, stained with blood. Harry's screaming and begging grew louder as they approached the door, and Sirius thrashed violently, desperate to get free and save his son. "HARRY!"
Finally, they took him through the door. And there was Harry, in the center of the room with his back to Sirius, crying and trying to curl into a ball. Thick chains around his wrists kept him shackled to the floor. He was covered in blood, and his blood, feces, and piss were pooled around his knees.
"HARRY!" I'll kill you bastards! I'll kill all of you!
"DAD!" Harry turned to him, straining against the chains. His glasses were gone, and so were the charms that made him look like Sirius' son. His light green eyes were darker, emerald green, and almond shaped, just like Lily's. The few bits of his hair that weren't held down with blood or sweat stuck up the way James' hair did. And his face had changed too.
Harry looked so much like James, but with Lily's tearfilled eyes, that Sirius wouldn't have recognized him so quickly if he didn't know who the boy in the center of the empty--except for Death Eaters--room. But Harry was still his, Sirius', son.
"I'm right here, Harry. I'm right here, I'm not leaving you. I'll get you out of here, take you home, okay, pup? You'll be okay. I'll get you out."
Harry kept pulling at the chains. "Dad..."
"Shut up, brat!" A Death Eater's foot raised.
A blinding wave of anger swept over Sirius, and with a furious scream, he pulled away from the Death Eaters holding him and threw his body over Harry. Just in time. The Death Eater's foot collided with his side instead of with his son.
He covered every bit of Harry that he could when he heard the Death Eaters laughing, and they began kicking him too.
Not Harry. You won't hurt Harry. Not while I'm here.
Harry was clutching Sirius' robes, trying to pull his father even closer. "Dad, I'm sorry! I love you! I don't hate you!"
"Enough of this!"
That voice. The Death Eaters stopped kicking and laughing, and Sirius held Harry as tightly as he dared. But Sirius' grip wasn't enough; he was torn away from his son again.
"Well, we meet at last, Harry Potter." Voldemort circled Harry, looking him over like a meal. "This child is meant to defeat me? Ha!"
"Get away from him!" Sirius snarled.
Voldemort ignored him and pointed his wand at Harry. "Crucio!"
"NO!" Harry's screaming was worse than anything Sirius had heard before. "STOP!"
Voldemort cast the spell again.
"PLEASE! I'LL DO ANYTHING! JUST LEAVE HIM ALONE!"
"What will you do, Black? I did not hear you. Crucio!"
"ANYTHING! I'LL DO ANYTHING!" Sirius was crying now, trying as hard as he could to get free. He had to get between Harry and Voldemort's wand.
"Very well. The House of Black shall stand behind me once more! You, Sirius, shall join me as a faithful Death Eater and openly declare your House's support for Lord Voldemort. In return, young Harry will never be harmed by myself or mine again." He ran the back of his long, pale hand down the side of Harry's face, causing Sirius to bare his teeth.
But slowly, Sirius' ferocious look retreated, and he stopped pulled against the Death Eaters holding him. "A-all right. I'll do it. I'll join you."
Sirius forced himself to look at his son. Harry wasn't ignorant of Sirius' past; he knew why his father fought so hard against Voldemort.
"I have to, pup. I love you. I can't let them hurt you anymore." And once he was branded with the Dark Mark he could disapparate out of this hellhole. He'd grab Harry, apparate him away, and Voldemort be damned. He would do this. For Harry.
"Now, Lord Voldemort will keep his word, and end the suffering of this child, whom that fool, Albus Dumbledore, thought could defeat me, forever!" He raised his wand.
"Wait, stop! What are you doing?"
"This child will know the mercy of Lord Voldemort with a quick, painless death."
Harry looked desperately at his father when he heard that Voldemort meant to kill him. He wanted to call out, but he had frozen. He looked back and saw Voldemort's lips move, and a beam of green light emerge from his wand.
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw his father break free of the Death Eaters holding him and lunge towards him.
Dad... save me...
Sirius dove in front of the green light, and caught it with his chest.
Harry heard the thud of his father's body hitting the stone floor.
"DAD!" He reached forward, as much as he could with his restrained hands and shook his father furiously. "NO, DAD!"
Voldemort laughed. "This is the power of love!"
Sirius didn't move. His grey eyes were open, unblinking.
"DAD! Dad, get up! Get up! I need you! Dad! Please! Please get up! I love you! DAD! DAD!"
"Don't worry, Harry Potter. You'll be with your idiot 'father' soon enough."
This time, the green light hit Harry, and Harry... Harry's last thought before passing out was how he wished he could have heard 'I love you, pup' one more time.
James, Lily, and Remus, with Dumbledore, were at the head of the group of Order members infiltrating Voldemort's dungeon stronghold.
Mad-Eye Moody's magical eyes was spinning wildly in its socket. "I see them! No guards, no Death Eaters anywhere, actually. Probably a trap."
"Where are they?" Lily demanded.
"Right above us."
Without waiting for another word, James and Lily took off, and Remus followed without hesitation.
"Here! This is it." James pushed open a disgusting, wood door that led to an empty, stone room. Empty except for Harry and Sirius. The three rushed forward. James pulled Harry, whose head was resting on Sirius' chest, back, and felt his neck.
Lily cursed off the chains around Harry's wrist, and Remus conjoured two stretchers.
"He's alive!" James could have cried with relief. They weren't too late.
"Oh, thank god." Lily reached over Sirius to hold Harry's hand.
Once Harry was levitated into the stretcher, James again dropped to the floor, this time feeling for Sirius' pulse. When he couldn't find it, he tried the other side of his best mate's neck. "Damn you, Padfoot." He searched Sirius' chest next. "Damn it!"
Lily, with one hand still holding Harry's, knelt next to her husband. "James?"
James ripped open Sirius' robes so the material would stop getting in the way of the heartbeat. "Padfoot! Get up, you arse!" Still no heartbeat. "Fuck!" He hit Sirius' chest as hard as he could. Maybe his heart needed a jump start.
Lily's hands were on his arm, but he didn't care. All he cared about was forcing a pulse out of Sirius before these new tears fell.
"Sirius, you bastard! Stop fooling around!" His fist made contact with Sirius' face this time, but Sirius still didn't move, and his heartbeat was still missing.
"James!" Remus this time.
"James, honey, he's--"
"He's not dead! SIRIUS, GET UP!" He pressed his ear against Sirius' chest this time. If he couldn't feel it, he would hear it. "Get up... Get up..."
James looked at Lily for the first time since entering this horrible room. She was crying too.
"...he's not getting up."
"But we weren't too late. Harry..." In a panic, James jumped up. What if he had imagined feeling Harry's heartbeat? Seeing Harry's chest rise ever-so-slightly and fall with each shallow breath told James he hadn't imagined anything. Harry was alive, but Sirius... Sirius...
James felt Remus' hand on his shoulder and Lily wrap an arm around him. He held onto both of them and cried.
A/N: So, uh... *runs and hides*