Chapter 1: Prologue: Dumbledore's Office, November 1981
"You can't do this!"
"Remus, I understand your concern-"
"My concern?" Remus' hands clenched around the back of the chair so hard, it was beginning to wobble. "You've just allowed an innocent man to be imprisoned and you've given Harry to people who have no right to have him! There was a reason Lily and James didn't name Petunia and her husband as Harry's guardians."
"Remus, there was nothing else I could do-"
"You are the most powerful wizard our world has ever known," Remus said, his fury making his voice high and manic, "and you can't do anything?"
"The Aurors captured Sirius in the middle of the carnage-"
"This is Sirius! Sirius!" Remus stressed; the legs of the chair scraped the stone floor as he shoved it away. "He would never betray the Potters! He would have died before he would do anything to put his godson in danger-"
"Including keeping himself out of harm's way?" Albus asked quietly. "So that his godson would not have to be stay with Petunia?"
Remus' chest heaved as words seared through his righteous anger.
Albus went on before Remus could recover, "He chose to follow Peter."
Anger flared again and Remus narrowed his eyes. "He was trying to make certain Harry was safe from a madman! And it isn't just his freedom we're talking about, Albus! What about Harry? You can't leave him with those people."
Albus sighed and turned slightly toward the window. "What would you have me do, Remus? The Dursleys are his only living relatives."
"James and Lily would not want this, Albus. You know they wouldn't."
"He has nowhere else to go," Albus pointed out. "You would not be allowed to adopt him once your condition was found out during the screening process."
Remus flinched at the blunt reminder of what he was.
"Harry will be perfectly safe with his relatives for now," Albus said, turning back around now and speaking with a smile. "Petunia has a son, just about his age. Harry will make a nice addition to their family."
Remus shook his head vehemently, but Albus paid no attention. He picked up a scrap of parchment from his desk. "I assume you do not have any desire to remain in London?" he asked, the smile gone from his voice.
"I have secured a cottage for you, in a small Muggle village in France. You will be able to continue with your writing there. No one will be able to find you."
"Harry will remain where he is until there is no longer a reason for him to," Albus said firmly. He held the parchment out to Remus. "You cannot do anything, Remus," he said, his voice gentler. "For either of them right now."
Remus couldn't find anything to say; Albus placed the parchment in his hand. He said nothing either and a moment later, Remus was whirled away.
A moment later, Remus stared around the tiny hovel where Albus' Portkey had taken him. The piece of parchment shook as his hand trembled.
James and Lily were gone…
Peter had betrayed them…
Harry was with people who would hate him…
With a dry sob, Remus fell to his knees.
Everyone he'd ever loved was lost.
Albus gazed at the place where Remus had just been. With a deep sigh, he murmured the spell that made his silver Patronus erupt from the tip of his wand.
He adjusted the papers on his desk while he waited. Less than five minutes later, there was a tentative knock on his door.
"Come in, Severus," Albus said quietly. The door opened slowly and finally, clad in black as he always was, Severus stepped inside.
"You summoned me, Headmaster?" The tone was nearly as reserved as Albus had ever heard it; the black eyes were still clouded with remorse, as they had been since Halloween.
Albus beckoned him inside. "Yes, Severus. I have changed my mind about how I can best use your talents. Please have a seat."
Sirius sat huddled in the corner of his cell as the winds howled outside and the waves lapped loudly against the side of the building. His hands dug into the sides of his head as he tried to shut out the images that wouldn't stop haunting him.
James' house, an empty ruin…
James and Lily dead. Their eyes staring at nothing.
Harry screaming as Hagrid took him from Sirius' arms.
The words he'd said to soothe him. The lie. "I'll come get you, Harry."
Harry struggling against Hagrid's forearm as they flew away in Sirius' motorbike.
There had been no hate-filled eyes. But Sirius could imagine them. Could see them clearly alongside Harry's struggles.
The images bombarded him until he lost all sense of time. Anger, fear, hate, self-loathing, and betrayal crowded into his heart until he knew he'd go mad with it.
Dragging in a painful breath of air, Sirius concentrated and with a lurch, his body transformed.
The shadow of a large dog stretched beyond the cell, but there was nobody to notice. Nobody to care. And so the dog remained.
For three years…
And when the dog heard the unfamiliar screech of metal against stone, he didn't even lift his head.
The dog's head jerked up.
"It's all right, Sirius," the gentle voice said as it came closer. "Here…"
A spell broke the air and the dog saw through human eyes again.
"Dumbledore?" Sirius croaked; he didn't even recognize his own voice.
"Yes, Sirius, I'm really here." The headmaster's fingers carded gently through his hair.
"What's-" Sirius coughed violently.
"It's all right… don't try to talk. We're leaving now."
Sirius had no idea what he meant.
"Peter's been captured. You have been acquitted."
Sirius focused all his energy on those words, drank them in as Dumbledore put a hand round his waist and lifted.
"Harry…" he rasped as he stumbled against Dumbledore's side.
"He's all right," Dumbledore assured him softly.
"We'll go see him as soon as you're able."
Sirius gasped as pain lanced through his legs and speech was no longer possible. Remus, he wanted to say. He wanted Remus as well.
He needed both of them.