Chapter 5 : Sirius
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And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
-Frank Herbert, Litany against Fear
With his head titled up toward the starry sky above, Sirius watched the two last things he cared about in the world leave him forever – his godson Harry and his motorbike. The clock was ticking, he had to find the rat before Magical Law Enforcement, or worse his friends, arrived. Sirius looked on the ruined house for a moment more before saying, “Goodbye, Prongs.”
Sirius returned to his flat and paced the length of his sitting room trying to marshal his thoughts. Dumbledore’s message that night to check on the others had set Sirius on edge. Finding Peter’s tiny flat cleared out caused a slight panic to rise in his chest. The sight of James and Lily’s house ruined and full of death had nearly stopped Sirius’ heart. Between the horror of losing his best friend and realizing that he would be the target of suspicion and revenge, Sirius felt all hope had left the world forever. Where is Peter hiding? He needed to find his wormy friend.
In the hours that passed Sirius cycled through numb disbelief, rage, and sobbing fits of incoherent mumbling. He was not stable nor was he thinking clearly as the night brought him through horror and back – Sirius was unable to completely lose himself in grief or pull himself together. He was stuck in a forsaken emotional wasteland. The only thought that rang true was that he needed to find Peter. Sirius needed to avenge his friends but he didn’t want to do it alone. If only he could go to Moony for help… but Remus would see Sirius as the killer. Why didn’t they tell others Peter was the secret keeper?
By the time the sun rose the next morning, he had a plan. It wasn’t well-formed and would likely fail but Sirius was going to find Peter starting with his flat and moving to places Peter may think to go. Sirius wished he had paid more attention to the habits of his former-friend. Remus was the ever-observant person who could have listed at least eight potential hideouts for the worm. Remus is gone too. There is no one left.
Peter’s flat was the same as it had been the previous evening when Sirius stopped in to check on his former friend. Most of his personal effects were gone. There wasn’t anything about the emptiness that hinted at a destination for Peter. Sirius did find a letter from Peter’s mum dated a few weeks ago. Would he hide with his mummy? Deciding that the Lewisham borough of London, where Sirius remembered Pettigrew saying he grew up, would be as good a place to start as any, Sirius left the abandoned flat.
Sirius did not find Peter in his search, instead the worm cornered the dog. Not at all up to his usual standards of wand-work, Sirius found himself bamboozled and tricked by his usually clumsy and bumbling quarry. The entire situation seemed like a joke to Sirius. The explosion Peter caused in his escape barely registered as Sirius let out a low carrying laugh. “Peter, I’ll find you,” Sirius muttered as bits of debris floating through the air. How had Peter bested Sirius Black? Sirius closed his eyes and imagined what James would have said at this.
“Did you have your wand on you when this happened?” James’ voice drifted through Sirius’ imagination.
“Of course I had my wand. I also remembered to wear pants today,” Sirius retorted to his friend’s voice.
“Wouldn’t be the first time you’ve gone out underdressed,” James reminded him. Even in death, a faint smile could be heard in James’ voice. “Back to this business about Wormtail getting the better of you… were you beguiling a pretty witch at the time?”
Sirius grinned at no one in particular. “Haven’t seen a pretty witch in quite a while, mate,” Sirius told his dead friend’s voice. “I might just be having an off day. It’s not every day my best friend dies.”
Magical Law Enforcement had arrived and were closing in on Sirius. His smile and conversation with no one unnerved many of them as they approached. Sirius was muttering and laughing to himself as one of them, a broad-shouldered blonde bloke, disarmed the incoherent suspect and bound his hands together. Suddenly, as if surprised by their presence, Sirius yelled, “Peter! It was Peter!” The laugh that left his lips was manic and disturbed the wizard holding Sirius. How could someone laugh with all of the bodies dead in the street?
With a jolt, Sirius drew himself out of the conversation he was having with James. He had explained to his friend about his death and evident betrayal and was just about to ask if Lily was there when a jerk to his arm let Sirius know he wasn’t alone. Looking around he could see that he was in a street crawling with Ministry employees. He was bound and gagged with his wand no longer in his hand. There will be a chance to explain. Sirius knew the process for cycling through those accused of helping Voldemort. There would be a hearing and he would get a chance to explain what happened, how they switched. Of course this would mean convincing Dumbledore. The headmaster’s trust often meant freedom and pardon for those who were otherwise untrustworthy in the eyes of the wizarding world. Would Dumbledore hear the truth?
Sirius drifted into melancholy and next reached a moment of clarity in a cold dark room. Was it Azkaban? No, certainly not. There hadn’t been a trial yet – had there? Sirius’ mind was overwhelmed with grief and loathing. He felt the fool for suggesting they use Peter as Secret Keeper. It had been his assurance that Peter was the safer choice that convinced James to switch. Sirius stood up and started to pace the mostly dark room he was in. It was about the size of a broom cupboard. A flash of memory hit Sirius – it was of hiding in a broom cupboard with James the first of what would be many times. Sadness and loss threatened to drown the young man. He took refuge in a conversation with James.
“You’re locked in a broom cupboard?” James’ voice came to him from a distance now. “And you’re not trying to snog a girl?” James had always teased Sirius for his barely earned reputation of being a witch chaser. One or two girlfriends and the entire school thought Sirius was some sort of Casanova. Pride and, well, just pride stopped Sirius from trying to set the record straight.
“There’s a definite lack of snogging here, Prongs,” Sirius told his friend. Even in the worst of situations, James and Sirius used humor to open up before going onto harder subjects. “I think I’m being charged with murder. There were dead muggles in that street.”
“They’ll check your wand and you’ll be free as a doxy.” A few moments passed before either of them spoke. “Sirius, will you watch out for Harry?”
Sirius took a moment to run his hand through the dark, shoulder-length hair he had once treasured before trying to respond. “I’ll do whatever it takes to be a good godfather,” Sirius said without really knowing what that would entail. “I’ll make sure he plays quidditch and that he doesn’t waste his time studying when he could be-“
“Hiding in a broom cupboard with his best mate?” James offered. Sirius laughed good-naturedly and sat back down on the cold stone floor. “I’m going to miss you,” James said quietly.
“I don’t want to be alone,” Sirius confided to the voice in his head. “Will you stay with me?
“This is your head, Padfoot. I’ll probably be here as long as you keep me.”
There was a bang at the door. Sirius looked towards the noise and felt unsure what he should do. A crisp voice met his ears, “Stay back from the door. We have ten aurors with their wands pointed at the entrance.” Sirius stayed where he was as the door opened to reveal what seemed to be the brightest light to ever burn into his eyes. “You are being transferred to Azkaban,” the man said from the doorway.
“What about my trial?” Sirius asked feeling his stomach lurch. There had to be a trial. “I need to speak to Dumbledore!”
“The evidence against you in insurmountable, Black. You will not waste the Wizengamot’s time with whatever pointless story you’ve concocted.”
Sirius felt his body go rigid. At first he thought it was out of fear but then realized that he had been put into a full body bind curse. Two of the wizards came forward to drag Sirius out of his cell. The brief glimpses Sirius had as he was being taken away told him he had been in the Ministry. Sirius felt the eerie cold ebb toward him before he saw the gaggle of dementors. If he had been in control of his body, a scream would have left his mouth when one of the creatures grabbed his arm.
The fear that washed over him was unlike anything else Sirius had felt before. He was going to be taken away and left to rot. He would never have a family and never again spend lazy afternoons discussing quidditch with his friends. He was going to alone. The only steadying thought he had as the swarm of dementors circled their new guest was that the certainty he felt of his innocence.
Innocence turned out to be a nasty friend in Azkaban. It was not a happy thought nor was one of solace. Sirius was alone, trapped on an island, and surrounded by hooded terrors. That was enough to make any person out of their mind with fear. Sirius wasn’t sure what he was supposed to experience while in this most menacing of prisons but he did not feel the same all-consuming terror the others seemed to exude. Most spend their time screaming as if living through their worst moments. Sirius felt his mind slipping away but was not engulfed in horrific visions of the past.
After a period, Sirius wasn’t quite sure how long it had been, he felt on the verge of subsuming to the terror and giving himself to fear as others had. He wasn’t sure why he had not lost his sense of self as others who came after him did in a matter of hours. What was it that caused hardened criminals to moan and cry? A sudden thought crossed into Sirius’ mind. Maybe he wasn’t being impacted like the other prisoners. They still had hope. Sirius had felt that emotion leave his body when he bade farewell to his best mate and godson.
Curiosity took hold of Sirius days later. If he wasn’t going mad, or had gone there and was quite at his ease with it, could he still do magic? Sirius hadn’t attempted magic without his wand before. Children do their first magic without a wand, surely an adult could figure it out. Sirius practiced the most basic spells to begin. It was painful to struggle once again with magic that he and James had struggled with together. He felt each spell was a burning reminder that his friend was indeed gone. After failing to so much as levitate a pebble, Sirius finally managed the simple spell.
The ability to do magic gave him drive to maintain some of his mind and most of his power. He could stay strong and work up to becoming the dog again. As the dog he could let the encroaching terror pass over him like fog over water.
Sirius tracked time by how many prisoners died. It took him six deaths to turn into the big black dog. Feeling his canine self was a welcome reprieve from the constant emotional assault he felt from the prison guards. It soon became clear to Sirius that they could not tell the difference between a mad wizard and an animal. They might be almost the same thing. Surely the dementors would have noticed when they passed that a black dog occupied his cell.
The full moon always pushed Sirius’ mind to his only living friend. Longing to see Remus again, the thought of escape flitted across the prisoner’s mind. Sirius quickly pushed the thought aside. Surely freedom would cause that emotion the dementors were so quick to feast on. Deciding that cowardice would never suit the Gryffindor, Sirius let his mind roam back to that elusive thought. With his magical abilities still intact and the dementor’s inability to closely track him as a dog, Sirius could leave and make his way back to England.
Where would he go? Surely all his gold was being held in a security hold. Dumbledore may kill the accused traitor. Remus may do worse than kill him. Harry, was a child and wouldn’t know who he was. The idea of freedom was not a happy thought. The ability to be free but not being able to enjoy freedom with the people he cared for was more confining than the cell that kept him prisoner. It was this thought that beckoned James back to Sirius.
“You could go into hiding,” James offered without true conviction in his voice.
“I’m practically in hiding here,” Sirius reminded his friend’s ethereal voice. “I don’t see the point in breaking out just to be on the run.”
James took a few moments to reply. Sirius could picture his oldest friend tussling his hair in thought. The image was bitter in his mind’s eye. “You need proof that you’re innocent,” James offered.
With a sigh Sirius started on the explanation he’d been giving himself about Peter’s evident disappearance, “I know that git is not the brightest wand at Ollivanders, but he’s been smart about this charade he’s pulling off. Wormtail must be hiding or else they’d know I didn’t kill him.”
“Then it’s obvious. You have to wait him out,” James said with a touch of impatience. “You’re safe here – well, the dementors aren’t harming you like they have others. Once you break out you’ll be hunted.”
“I don’t know if I can be here, be trapped, waiting for the traitor to make a mistake,” Sirius said with his face buried in his hands. “How can I help Harry if I’m slowly wasting away in this cell?” he said hoping that mention of his son would push James into encouraging his escape.
“When Harry needs his godfather, you’ll find a way to be there. I know you will. Padfoot, you were there for me through the best years of my life. You’ll do whatever it takes for him,” James spoke these words with such confidence and conviction that Sirius felt his eyes moistened and sting.
“I’ll wait. For Harry,” Sirius confirmed with his friend’s voice.
For the first time since James’ death, Sirius felt an emotional dangerously close to hope or happiness – it was purpose. He was meant to wait for a sign that he was needed by his godson. Sirius did not know how or when he’d get the signal but he was ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice. All he had to do now was wait and follow his path.
A/N: I got a bit of inspiration for this chapter from “I’m going slightly mad” by Queen. I also based Sirius’ drifting in and out of reality on how I’ve heard people talk through their deepest moments of grief. Let me know what you think. I know there wasn’t a clear or overwhelming fear in this but I wanted to focus on Sirius’ story connecting with the quote at the beginning.
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