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"soulless, evil, deserving nothing but death"

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1979

 Wizards and witches everywhere were terrified. A man, (if that’s what he was,) had risen from the darkness without a whisper, wreaking havoc in the wizarding world and obliterating anyone in his path. ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ they called him. ‘You Know Who’; the invisible giant harnessing the world’s hatred for muggles and using it to his own advantage. No one could trust each other, and the intensity of the conflict was at a peak.

 There was only one who could defy him, and that was Albus Dumbledore, the new headmaster of Hogwarts. This was who the brave and good supported. This was their only guiding flame in the world.

 Sirius Black was one of these brave magical folk, so dedicated to the cause he was willing to go on ‘dangerous errands’, as Dumbledore called them sometimes. Well, an ‘errand’ was going out for pumpkin juice. This was a dangerous mission to find the underground werewolf society- or at least persuade some unaffiliated wolves to join the cause. That, and find out what he could about their loyalties to Voldemort in the process. This was what he was doing speeding past blurs of trees on his motorcycle in the late hours of the night. While it was true that part of the appeal was offending his mother with muggle inventions, this was the main reason he had for keeping the thing around. Feeling the wind on your face and the freedom of the open road, that was what he craved. A broom just didn’t have the same effect, no matter how James may have praised it in comparison.

 As he cruised through the countryside, the young Black recognized the sign for the little cottage he was supposed to be staying at. It was the guest home of a distant relative- Andromeda, or, something or other. All he knew about her was that she was blasted off the family tree for marrying a muggle-born. They hadn’t had much contact until this, but he was still thankful for family he could at least say he was on good terms with. Then again, James and the other members of the Order of the Phoenix had already replaced the idea of family anyway. (Running away from home at sixteen had been the best decision of his life.)

 Upon arriving at the cottage in question, Black pulled into the side of the house, then used a foot to balance as he eased off his helmet. Normally he wouldn’t even wear a helmet, but not only was this safer, it also helped keep his identity hidden a bit better. The Death Eaters were still out for he and James, after all. Careful to cloak the bike with an invisibility spell beforehand, he thought he’d head in for a pot of tea. As refreshing as it was, riding cross country got tiring before too long. He tousled his hair and slung his bag over his shoulder. His hand met the cold metal of the front door knob and turned. The place was quaint. It had the essentials; a kitchen down the hall, and a sitting room to the left. Sirius tossed his helmet onto the loveseat and took a moment to admire the fireplace. He laughed. Even after being ‘excommunicated’ from the Black family, this cousin of his had done well. He found a kind of pride and solidarity in that, even if he hadn’t met the person.

 As tempting as it was to get some sleep right then and there, he knew it was a better idea to get that cup of tea and a shower. Time to himself was something he appreciated a lot more since moving in with James in ‘75. Neither of them had married or found their own places, leaving no reason to move out. He was close to his cousin, but being around someone as loud and obnoxious as himself could be a little overwhelming. That was one reason Dumbledore chose him for this- he knew cabin fever was getting the better of him. Sirius chuckled to himself as he tramped up the stairs. Thank Merlin the headmaster wasn’t into matchmaking, or they’d all be in for it.

 Whether it was the fatigue in his muscles- or the faint smell of flowery soap he couldn’t help noticing as he plopped down- the bed upstairs felt like a cloud. The architects responsible for building the little house must have been especially cruel, because the one bathroom was only accessible through the bedroom. In the end, he figured it didn’t really matter because he would be staying there alone. All that mattered was that he could finally have all the hot water to himself. He whistled as he undressed and started the hot water going. Typically, being alone in an unfamiliar place in such a treacherous time would be worrying, but he found himself unbothered. Defending himself didn’t seem like too hard of a task, and the isolation would be good for him, he knew it would. Not half as good as a shower felt, though. If it weren’t for his grumbling stomach he’d have decided to get some shut eye as soon as the water stopped. Usually this was why he loved traveling; there were always so many things to do.

   Upon leaving the steamy bathroom, Sirius felt comfortable in only a towel knowing James wasn’t there to yank it away. Once more it reminded him that he was allowed to relax now that he was alone. It was exactly what he needed in the middle of a wizarding war. His belt buckle jingled as he got dressed, wet hair still leaving dark marks on his clothing as he did so. Seeing as he was disguising himself as a Muggle, Sirius decided to ditch the whimsical hippie get up and instead opt for jeans and a matching jacket. (It was the late 70’s, after all.) He wasn’t particularly sure what to pair them with since he didn’t care, so he just chose a t-shirt and sneakers. They worked for most situations anyway.

   As he kickstarted his motorcycle, he realized it was Valentine’s Day soon. It only struck him then because Dumbledore had mentioned it the week before, and Dumbledore always seemed to have a way of working his wise words back into one's’ thoughts.

   Well, that kind of sucked. What could be more lonely than going out to eat alone on Valentines Day? He disregarded this and tugged his helmet back on. It was decided- he’d go to the pub. Maybe it wasn’t very British of him, but tea could wait. That’d further tie into his disguise, anyway.

 

   On his way through town, a candy store caught his eye as he took note of the different shops and businesses. A few muggles stared as he rode by, one a particularly pretty girl he stopped next to at a red light. How could he not wink at her? It was a perfect opportunity. However, this also reminded him that his motorcycle seemed to attract a little attention, even if he wasn’t the only one out this late by any means. While he knew this might have consequences in the future, he also knew there was nothing he could do about it now. Besides, if the damage was already done, he might as well reap the rewards and have a drink.

   The pub was dark and a little dirty, but it had an old charm he could appreciate. He thought the only staff might’ve been the rough silent type that took his order, but later on that pretty girl from before hurried in for her shift, pinning on a name tag that made it sound like a title: Colleen. Black sat at the bar and drank his pint, but as he did so found himself listening in on a couple of local old timers, Rod and Jerry. Rod probably had a lot of money at one time but now squabbles with his brother over who’s buying dinner and ordered another vodka tonic. Jerry, now, was a very interesting fellow. He must’ve been sixty and still racing motorcycles. He owned a security company and had been married to his wife for over forty years. Sirius was smiling at this conversation he overheard when another one near the back sparked his interest more.

   “What do you think you’re doing….how DARE you embarrass me like that…. “ Colleen and what he could only assume was her boyfriend were arguing over something, and getting more agitated by the minute. She was grabbed by the arm, then pulled into the back with the beginnings of a shout cut off by the door closing.

   Sirius looked around the room discreetly. From what he could see, no one was going to bat an eye. Unbelievable. Finishing off his pint, he left behind a hurried tip in muggle change and figured he’d go around from the front. He made his way around the back and kept quiet, but kept his wand ready as well. It was late and hard to make out many details. The only people in the alley were the couple and… someone he couldn’t quite make out- the conversation was moving pretty quickly.

   “This is none of your business, vagrant shit ‘ead!” In a short moment, ‘boyfriend’ over there had already aimed a swing at the intervening figure’s head. The stranger in question easily threw an even stronger punch in defense and knocked him back; the girl just watched as her boyfriend made another effort. Predictably, he was knocked to the ground with a second easy movement. In a shamed panic, the poor chump struggled to his feet and bolted off in the other direction.

   As he stealthily moved a little closer, Sirius realized that the one to save Colleen was her scruffy coworker that’d served him just moments before. She did exactly what he expected her to do; clung to her savior and tried to ‘repay him for his troubles’. The most surprising plot development, however, was that he pushed her away with what looked like suppressed disgust. “Don’t….” It was said abruptly, so that she didn’t have the time to get too close. “...take this as some kind of favor you need to repay, or anything.” When she looked like she was about to protest, he interrupted. “Please.”

   Colleen sighed with exasperation, as if this had happened before. “What are you afraid of, Romulus? You can’t keep running forever.”

  He was silent for a moment before shaking his head and replying, “I come in and I do my job. Whether I’m running is none of your business.” This was obviously not the answer she wanted, as she scoffed before leaving him there to go back inside. The man tiredly ran his hands through his hair, then inspected his knuckles. With one final shake of his bruised hand, he, too turned and went inside.

 

   “Wow.” Sirius was shocked at the dramatic scene he’d just witnessed play out. Not only that, but Romulus was miraculous! His eyes kept on replaying memories of the punches he threw and his deep voice being so commanding. He wasn’t sure why, but he had to talk to this person- not only because he wanted to bring up what he had just seen, but because he was inexplicably  drawn to him. Quickly, he got to his feet and burst through the back door, disregarding the ‘employees only’ warning completely. The back hallway was empty, and with the growing feeling that he was too late, Sirius decided to ask Colleen where the man had gone instead of waste time.

   “Ugh, he just got off work. ‘Don’t know what you could want from a loner like him, though-”

   In too much of a hurry, he hadn’t stayed to hear the rest, just made his way out the front doors for the second time that night. Unfortunately, he could see a rusty volkswagen already making its way out of the parking lot. It wasn’t exactly like he could wave his wand out here in the open with all these muggles around, either. That kind of thing landed you in Azkaban.