Caught in the Storm
It had been a long, cold ten years in Azkaban for Sirius Black.
Sirius pulled the rags of his clothing closer around him, huddling in the corner of his cell where it was warmest. He shuddered as he felt a Dementor go by in the distance, his mind overwhelmed with memories and impressions of the worst time in his life. The Dementor moved on, but Sirius remained where he was, lost in pain and grief and despair.
Slowly, Sirius became aware of a noise, not far from him. It was faint at first, an eerie grating noise that Sirius couldn’t place, before rising in volume, joined by alien whistling as something began to solidify in the air before him.
Sirius felt his heart begin to beat faster: he had no idea what the thing in front of him was, but it was possible that he was in danger. The thought caused a frisson of excitement to shoot through him. His eyes brightened, losing some of their glazed, distant look.
A moment later, there was a police box sitting in Sirius’ cell with him.
Sirius stared. Of all the possible items to appear in his cell, he’d certainly never considered one of those.
The police box doors opened, and a teenage boy in muggle attire stepped out. For a moment Sirius thought that he was looking at James, and wondered if he had gone mad at last.
But no, although the boy was similar in appearance, he lacked James’ trademark glasses, and his eyes were a brilliant emerald green that reminded Sirius of Lily. Sirius put it together.
“Harry?” Sirius breathed. Had he really been here long enough for his godson to become a teenager?
“Yes, and no,” said the teenage boy. The air of easy confidence was so very familiar, but there was a gravity in the green eyes that James had never possessed. “I mean, yes,” the boy continued, “that’s the name I was born with, but it’s a little complicated.”
A Dementor passed by, and Sirius was lost to horror and pain. He came out of it to the feeling of someone shaking his shoulder, and calling his name.
“James?” Sirius gasped, but no, it wasn’t James. He took in the messy hair and green eyes. “Harry?”
Harry just gave him a perturbed look.
“Sirius, try and remember the last five minutes,” was all he said.
Sirius frowned, but tried to sort out his muddled recollections. It was hard, but –
“I asked that already,” Sirius realized.
“Do you remember my answer?” Harry asked, helping Sirius to his feet. “Come on, up you get. Rassilon, did they let you have a bath at all in the last ten years?”
“Ten years?” Sirius repeated. His time in Azkaban had seemed like an eternity, and yet, the discovery that he had been here that long surprised him. Then Sirius thought about what Harry had said earlier. “How is it complicated?”
“We’ll talk about it in here,” Harry replied, propelling Sirius into the police box. Inside, it looked nothing like Sirius had expected: for one thing, it was bigger on the inside.
“Is this some kind of disguised wizarding tent?” he asked vaguely. Harry paused.
“You know, that’s not a bad guess, actually.” Harry sounded surprised. “But no.”
“Oh.” Sirius accepted this, just as he’d accepted everything else that had happened. Most of him was convinced that this was all a rather strange delusion. He watched as Harry pulled a lever on the whatever-it-was at the centre of the room, and the not-a-police-box made that peculiar, alien noise again.
“There we go,” Harry said brightly, and walked over to take Sirius’ arm. “Now, let’s show you to a room, and you can take a bath and put on some fresh clothes. Then I think a meal is in order, don’t you?”
Sirius went along with it all silently, watching in bemusement as Harry led him down a bunch of corridors, before opening a door that led into a rather nice bedroom. An open door perpendicular to the doorway Sirius was standing in led into a large bathroom.
“Right,” said Harry, “bathroom’s through there, it should have everything you need, and I’ll leave some clean clothes for you on the bed. Alright?”
Sirius nodded, and Harry smiled and left, shutting the bedroom door behind him.
Because Harry seemed to expect it, and to tell the truth the idea of a bath seemed heavenly, Sirius obediently walked into the bathroom.
By the time that Sirius had finished his bath, he was a little more willing to entertain the idea that what was happening was real. To be sure, it all felt rather like a wonderful dream, but there was no way Sirius could imagine the scent of sandalwood soap or the feeling of clean skin, not after all these years. Besides, pleasant dreams just didn’t happen in Azkaban.
When Sirius finally left the bathroom, wrapped in a large towel, he found a set of clean robes and underwear laid out for him on the bed. He put them on. The clean cloth felt almost silky against his skin. It was nice.
His wet hair was dripping down the back of his neck, though, so Sirius wrapped his towel around his head. That did the trick.
A moment later there was a knock on the door, and Harry popped his head in.
“Oh, good, the TARDIS said you were done,” he smiled. “Fancy some soup?”
“Where am I?” Sirius asked. “And why did you bring me here?”
Harry – if it actually was him – frowned, and stepped into the room.
“Because I know you’re innocent, Sirius,” he said gently. “And innocent men don’t belong in Azkaban.”
A rush of something hot and painful filled Sirius.
“It was my fault,” he choked out. “It’s my fault – if I hadn’t told James and Lily to switch at the last moment–”
Sirius felt something wet roll down his cheeks, and realised that he was crying.
“Ssh, it’s not your fault.” Harry looked terribly sad, but his eyes were understanding. “You didn’t know. Peter fooled all of you.”
“He shouldn’t have – if I’d known–”
“Then it all still would have happened, just the same,” Harry interrupted, looking tired. “The deaths of Lily and James Potter are a fixed point in time. Nothing you did differently could have prevented it.”
“I could have,” Sirius protested. “If only I hadn’t been such a fool–”
“Sirius.” Harry’s tone brooked no argument. “Listen to me, alright? It wasn’t your fault. I know you don’t believe me, but think about it, Sirius. Don’t you think, that if I knew you were responsible – me, Sirius, the one who lost his parents that night – that I’d tell you?”
“You don’t understand,” Sirius moaned. “I as good as killed them.”
“No,” Harry said quietly, and there was something dangerously still in his voice that made Sirius pay attention. “That was Pettigrew.” He exhaled. “Look, Sirius, if I told you that I know where Pettigrew I ,would you help me capture him?”
“Yes,” Sirius hissed, his eyes burning.
“Not to kill him,” Harry warned, putting up a hand, “but to turn him into the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and see that justice is done. I want to see him spend the rest of his life in Azkaban, as he deserves.”
Sirius hesitated. On the one hand, Peter deserved death for what he’d done; but on the other…
“Good,” said Harry. “But first – and we should probably discuss this over dinner – I have a story to share with you…”
Sirius gave Harry a long look.
“You’re saying that you’re a species from another planet,” he said flatly. “Come off it.”
Harry sighed long-sufferingly.
“Wizards,” he complained, apparently to the air in front of him. “Talk to them about magic, and they act like it’s a fundamental force of the universe, but suggest that Earth isn’t some kind of unique cradle of life and the look at you like you’re mad.” He sighed again. “Okay, I guess we do this the hard way.”
Before Sirius could stop him – or even work out what Harry was doing – Harry put his fingers to Sirius’ temples, and then slammed his head into Sirius’.
Sirius saw stars, but he was too busy reeling at the new information in his head to really notice.
“You’re an alien,” he gasped at Harry.
“I did tell you,” said Harry, rubbing his forehead and wincing.
“But an alien,” Sirius insisted, clutching at his own head. It hurt. “It’s fantastical!”
“You’d be surprised how much of reality is fantastical,” said Harry. “Now, shall we go and capture Pettigrew, or do you need more time to adjust your worldview?”
“Peter,” said Sirius. “Let’s go after Peter.”
Capturing Peter apparently involved breaking into the Weasleys’ house in the dead of night, underneath James’ invisibility cloak. (“For the last time, I’m the Doctor now,” Harry complained, but Sirius ignored him. Harry might be an alien, but that didn’t mean that Sirius had to pay any attention to his ridiculous name. Harry was Harry.) Sirius was perfectly fine with this.
“Peter lives here?” he whispered, as Harry unlocked the Weasleys’ front door with a simple alohamora. “How will we find him?”
“He’s Ron Weasley’s pet,” Harry whispered back. “I shared a dorm with Ron this past year, and Peter usually slept in his bed with him.”
Sirius made a face.
“It is kind of weird, when you think about it,” Harry agreed under his breath, as they crept up the stairs. “I mean, a grown man, a barely pubescent boy… ew. Now you’ve got me thinking about it, Sirius, thanks a lot.”
A thought occurred to Sirius.
“How do you know where we’re going?” he asked.
“Point-me spell,” Harry said lowly. “Now shut up, before someone hears us.” Sirius shut up.
Ron Weasley slept with his bedroom door open, it turned out. And there, curled up on the pillow next to him, was a rat, curled up in a furry ball. Sirius immediately shrugged off the invisibility cloak and pounced.
“Aha!” he shouted triumphantly, grabbing Peter and holding him just behind the neck so that he couldn’t bite. “Gotcha!”
The Weasley boy promptly began screaming, his eyes wide in terror as they fixed on Sirius’ looming form, barely discernable in the darkness.
“Dammit, Sirius!” Harry bellowed, lifting up an edge of the cloak and throwing it over him. “I told you to do this quietly! But no, you have to wake up the whole house! Shut up, Ron, no one’s trying to hurt you!”
“Harry?” squeaked the Weasley boy, eyes darting around in fear and confusion, looking for a now-invisible Harry and Sirius. There was the thud of footsteps in the hallway, and Arthur Weasley appeared in the doorway with his wand raised. The light turned on.
“Ron?” Arthur asked, looking worried. Harry slapped a hand over Sirius’ mouth. Sirius made an indignant face, but didn’t move. Instead, he smirked evilly at a struggling Peter. “Are you alright?”
Ron looked around his well-lit room in bewilderment.
“I – I think I had a nightmare?” he said uncertainly. “There was this man – and I thought I heard Harry Potter’s voice–”
Harry started vibrating next to Sirius, and Sirius realized that the boy was giggling silently.
“Well, there’s no one here,” Arthur said soothingly, moving closer to the bed. Harry stopped covering Sirius’ mouth, and tugged him towards the open door instead. Sirius and Harry crept towards it. “Why don’t you try and go back to sleep? You haven’t been eating sweets before bed again, have you?”
Out in the hallway, Harry held out a small metal cage, and Sirius shoved Peter into it. Peter squeaked in panic and tried to bite Harry through the bars, but Harry whispered “stupefy,” and Peter went limp.
Together Harry and Sirius tiptoed down the stairs, and out the front door. Sirius shut it behind them with a quiet click.
“Quick, let’s get out of here,” Harry said briskly, heading for the TARDIS. Sirius grabbed at the edge of the cloak as it almost uncovered him, and made haste to keep up with Harry.
“What now?” Sirius asked, when they were inside the TARDIS. Harry looked down at Peter darkly, and smiled.
“Oh, I was planning a quick stop at the DMLE.”
When Amelia Bones arrived at work the next morning, there was a cage on her desk with a rat inside it. The rat seemed agitated at the sight of her, squeaking loudly and running to the opposite side of the cage. There was a note on the top of the cage, and Amelia leaned forward to read it.
This is Peter Pettigrew, said the note, in cheerfully loopy handwriting. He’s a rat animagus. He betrayed the Potters to Voldemort ten years ago, and then faked his own death, framing Sirius Black for the crimes he committed. Notice how the rat is missing a toe? There’s a reason why all they ever found of Pettigrew was a finger. Sirius Black is innocent. I know how this sounds, but please, humour me, and test the rat anyway. My best regards, the Doctor.
Amelia stared at the note. Then she looked at the frightened rat in the cage.
It was a ridiculous idea, all of it… and yet…
Amelia stuck her head out into the hallway.
“Shacklebolt, Smythe, if you would join me for a moment…”
“So that’s that,” Harry said in satisfaction, folding his newspaper. “Pettigrew’s locked up, you’re considered a free man, and justice has been served. All’s well that ends well, eh?”
Sirius found it hard to believe, after all these years, but he’d read the paper himself, and knew it was all real. He wasn’t sure that everything was well at all, but kept that to himself.
“Now, there’s only one thing left,” Harry added, smiling. He leaned forward to look Sirius in the eyes. “And that’s what to do about you.”
Sirius felt the bottom drop out of his stomach.
“What?” he croaked, his throat suddenly dry. “But –”
“Sirius,” Harry said gently. “You’re not ready to travel with me. Maybe when you’ve had time to recover… but right now, all the trouble and danger I get into wouldn’t be good for you. You need time to heal before I put that kind of stress on you. I promise I’ll visit, though.”
“I’m your godfather,” Sirius protested. “Besides, you can’t go on alone–”
“I can and will,” Harry said flatly. “This isn’t negotiable, Sirius.”
Sirius was about to argue with him, but a look from Harry silenced him. For a moment Harry looked so much older than the thirteen or so he appeared to be, and there was something in his eyes that was alien and frightening…
“Anyway,” Harry continued breezily, as though nothing had happened, “you’re not the only one who needs help, you know. Poor Remus has been alone all this time, without anyone… and you know what he’s like. So come on, Sirius,” Harry stood, and started fiddling with the console, and the TARDIS began her dematerialization sequence (as Harry called it), “let’s go see your old friend, shall we?”
Harry didn’t look at him as they materialised, and Sirius could do nothing but follow Harry helplessly as he walked towards the door, a heavy longing in his heart.
When Remus opened his front door, the last thing he expected was to find Sirius Black standing on his doorstep.
“Sirius?” he asked hoarsely. Sirius looked terrible: his eyes were sunken and hollow, his face gaunt and his expression haunted. He looked thin and pale, his hair long and falling in straggly strands around his face.
“Yes, it’s him, and I’m sure that by now you know all about him being an innocent man, it being in the papers and so forth,” said the cheerful teenage boy standing next to Sirius. Remus dragged his eyes away from Sirius to find himself staring at a boy who looked remarkably like James, although the attitude and twinkly-eyed look was more reminiscent of Albus Dumbledore. A lightning-bolt scar was barely visible beneath the messy fringe. “Do you mind if we come in?” the boy added.
“Uh – of course, come in,” Remus stammered, staring between Sirius and the boy who could only be James and Lily’s son.
“Thank you,” said Harry, and walked past Remus. He immediately conjured a large armchair – Remus gaped at the feat of magic from someone so young – and sat in it. He immediately conjured a second one, which Sirius seemed to take as his cue to sit down as well.
There was an awkward silence.
“Would you… would you like some tea?” Remus asked, after a moment. He couldn’t stop staring.
“Ooh, yes,” Harry said at once. “I love tea!” He looked expectantly at Sirius.
“Yes, thank you, Remus,” Sirius said quietly, speaking for the first time. His voice was raspy, as though it hadn’t been used in a long time. For ten years…
Without meaning to Remus sank into the nearest chair, shuddering.
“Sirius, can you ever forgive me?” he asked, his voice shaking. “For all this time… believing that…” His voice trailed off.
“On second thought, maybe I’ll make the tea,” said Harry, getting to his feet. “Kitchen this way? No? Oh well, I’ll find it.” He left Remus and Sirius alone.
“As long as you forgive me for believing that you were the spy,” Sirius said, still in that quiet, raspy voice. Remus gave a shaky laugh.
“Of course,” he said, and before he knew what he was doing, he was crossing the space between them and pulling Sirius to his feet and into a hug.
For a long moment they stood like that, neither wanting to let go of the other; then Remus took a step back, taking another long look at Sirius.
“I am sorry, you know,” he told Sirius. “I should have known it was Peter.”
“Why should you?” called a voice from the kitchen. “He was your friend. You trusted him. Nothing wrong in that. The fault is all Pettigrew’s. Also, where do you keep your teacups, if you don’t mind?”
Remus blinked, and responded, “Second cupboard to the right, facing the window.” He looked at Sirius. “Is he always like this?”
Sirius tried to smile, and failed, as though he couldn’t quite remember how.
“Worse, as far as I can tell.”
“I can hear you, you know,” Harry remarked, walking into the room with a tray holding three teacups, and the sugar bowl. He put the tray down on the battered coffee table nearby, and proceeded to add several spoons of sugar to his tea. Remus felt his eyebrows rise at the sheer amount of sugar, but politely said nothing.
“Are the two of you living together, now?” he asked, looking between Harry and Sirius.
“Not quite,” said Harry, blowing on his tea to cool it. “Actually, I was hoping Sirius could stay here, with you. He doesn’t really have anywhere else to go, and, well, he needs someone to look after him.”
Remus’ eyebrows furrowed. Harry was acting like a miniature adult, and the way he seemed to be making decisions for Sirius was… unexpected.
“I’m missing something,” he murmured, frowning.
“You should do that thing,” Sirius told Harry. “The memories thing, so he understands.”
“I’m not doing that, it hurts,” Harry protested. “Besides, you can explain it to him.”
“I don’t want you to leave,” Sirius said, his expression despairing. Harry hesitated, his own expression wavering between pained and resolute.
“I’ve told you, I’ve got things I need to do, and the last thing you need is to be developing more trauma on top of the trauma you’ve already got, Sirius,” said Harry, which made no sense to Remus at all.
“Can someone explain, please?” Remus asked. Harry sighed, sounding put-upon.
“Oh, fine,” he said, putting down his cup of tea and walking over to Remus. “I’d put your tea down, if I were you.”
“Why?” Remus asked warily, while putting his tea down hastily. Being friends with Sirius and James had taught him to pay attention to warnings like that.
“Because I’m about to do this,” said Harry, touching Remus’ temples and banging their skulls together.
Suddenly, Remus’ mind was full of information. He stared in astonishment at Harry, who simply sat down and resumed drinking his tea, looking grumpy.
“You’re an alien,” said Remus, feeling ridiculous even just saying it. But Harry nodded calmly.
“And you know what I do,” he agreed, “and why I can’t take Sirius with me.”
“I don’t, actually,” Remus said slowly, looking at Harry steadily. “As far as I can tell, you have no good reason to keep him off your ship, except, perhaps, the fact that you don’t want him there.”
Something in Harry’s expression crumpled, and for a moment, he looked like an ordinary twelve or thirteen year old boy, even though Remus’ memories said that he was almost forty.
“I’m trying to do what’s best, can’t you see that?” he asked snappishly, but Remus saw the look he sent Sirius. It was irritable, but held longing and trepidation in equal measure.
“What are you afraid of?” Sirius asked suddenly. Harry’s mouth thinned into a firm line, but to Remus’ surprise, he answered.
“People who don’t understand trying to meddle with things,” he said. “People trying to treat me like a child.” And then, even more unwillingly, he said, “Being abandoned all over again.”
Sirius looked like Harry had slapped him, while Remus winced.
“What do you mean, abandoned?” he asked carefully. “Dumbledore said you were with your relatives…”
“Child abusers,” Harry said flatly. “Magic-phobes. Jealous, petty people who took out their frustrations on me, by overworking and underfeeding me and subjecting me to emotional abuse. I was abandoned to them, and don’t say I wasn’t, because no one who supposedly cared for me was there when I needed them. The time when I needed a safe adult is over, and I won’t brook any interference now, when it’s too late.”
Sirius looked heartbroken. Remus didn’t feel much better. Being repudiated by his best friend’s son hurt, even if he could understand Harry’s point of view.
“I’m sorry,” Sirius blurted. Harry nodded in acknowledgement, but didn’t speak. “You’re all I have left,” Sirius added, “besides Remus. Please, Harry.”
Harry gave Sirius a long look, the ice in his features softening a little. Remus didn’t dare interrupt the moment. Finally Harry sighed deeply.
“One trip,” he said abruptly. “One. That’s all. So that you can see for yourself that I’m fine. You can come too, Remus – maybe you’ll help keep him out of trouble.”
But there was hope in Sirius’ face, all the same. Seeing the way that his eyes brightened as he looked at Harry, Remus hoped that Harry relented.
“Come on, then,” said Harry, standing up, and leaving his empty cup on the battered coffee table. “Let’s go. But if I tell you not to do something, then don’t go and do it, I mean it, understand?”
“Alright,” said Sirius. He was almost smiling. He glanced at Remus, who thought, Down the rabbit hole we go. But it was a pleasant thought, not a negative one.
“Just let me get my coat,” Remus said, and smiled tentatively.