This was easily my favorite chapter so far. You took Sirius through so many positive moments in this one, tempered by a few close calls and unpleasant realizations. I felt so good for him.
I absolutely loved Sirius's take on Harry's situation away from school. Fan fic authors spend so much time letting the would-be adults in Harry's life decry the conditions of his life with the Dursleys. And I think most of the authors come by that viewpoint quite honestly. After all, the majority of fan fic authors are on the younger side -- no offense to anyone -- and very few of them come from a family as cold and unloving as the Dursleys are toward Harry. The viewpoint also makes sense for many of the HP characters, particularly Hermione and the Weasleys. But here you've let Sirius come to a conclusion that feels perfectly natural for him. "Harry's a little skinny, but honestly he's not doing too badly." For someone who grew up with old-money, pureblood lunatics for parents and Bellatrix for a cousin and just broke out of Azkaban, I'm sure Harry's life doesn't seem all that terrible. So I commend you in the strongest possible terms for not falling into the tired, cliched, "Sirius is furious with everyone for letting his godson be treated so horribly" storyline.
Aside from that, I liked the way that Sirius reacts to his first sight of Harry, thunderstruck as though he'd just seen young James and not perfectly able to sort out his feelings. But then he also reacts to the hints of Lily in Harry's face. Nicely done!
Moving on to the scenes that take place in Scotland, this section gave me such mixed feelings. I loved the idea of Sirius feeling so at home around Hogwarts. The way that he gravitated irresistibly toward the Quidditch match felt so perfect for him, and once again he's having trouble separating Harry from James.
The way that he's forced to flee the castle and eventually the Quidditch match must have hurt him so badly. It was his one refuge from his family before he was sort of taken in by the Potters and now he isn't even welcome there. His flight from the Quidditch pitch was hair-raising. And I really, really loved the "soap box of humanity" that he keeps hidden in the Shrieking Shack. That was a brilliant little touch that humanized him so much. It was really emotional and heart-warming in a weird way to see James and Lily coming back to reassure him again. Magic being what it is, it's impossible to know whether he's going crazy or whether they're really looking out for him, but I like to believe a little of each.
Let's see, what else... I really loved Sirius's reflection on how his hatred of Peter had changed him. It was a great contrast, how it was a source of strength but also something that brought him to the edge of doing terrible things.
This story is so great. You've probably heard that a lot, but it's worth repeating. One more chapter to go...
Author's Response: Well, thank you for taking the time to write another review! And particularly for picking out Sirius's reaction to what he sees of Harry's life with the Dursleys. In addition to his unique perspective on childhood, we also know that Sirius - as much as we love him - is extremely single-minded (a trait he shares with Harry), slightly unhinged as we first meet him, and at this point in time has bigger fish to fry (ie. Finding Peter and making him pay). So yeah, basically - I agree with you!
Ha, 'Soap box of humanity'. I love it. You're quite right; is Sirius, as a wizard, simply more highly attuned to those who have died? Or is he a little crazy? Or is he simply a human who loved deeply and suffered great trauma?
Again, you've hit the nail on the head of what I was trying to do; his hatred of Peter becomes both sustaining and dangerous. Although we all grow to know and love Sirius, we do (on first reading) spend most of PoA understanding him to be a figure of terror and danger. When we first meet him, Harry has to persuade him not to commit murder. So I wanted to keep some hint at just how much he lives on a knife-edge.
Sorry it's taken me a while to reply to your reviews, I've injured my back and can't sit at my computer for long!