Sometimes, when Sirius Black slept, he dreamt.
Unlike most people, Sirius’ dreams were rarely fantastic or fictional concoctions of an imaginative mind, instead they were often actual events from his life, playing out in his mind’s eye like scenes from a muggle movie, and on some nights, some very rare nights, they started from beginning to end in near perfect chronological order, like a chronicle of his life before.
As always, these dreams on these rare nights began with his childhood; growing up at 12 Grimmauld Place alongside his brother, Regulus, and being taught (read: conditioned) to be good, little, bigoted, pureblood gits by their loving mother, Walburga “batty” Black.
An odd thing for a man who’s spent any amount of time at Azkaban to say, but those years at Grimmauld Place were, without doubt, the worst ones of Sirius’ trauma-filled life, because, as it turned out, a family of bigots could be giant arses to anyone who didn’t share their retarded views, even if they were family, a child, or a child who was family.
Sirius could never quite say for sure just why his mother’s conditioning had never taken with him, like it did with Regulus; maybe it was because he’d always been depressingly aware of just how insane the woman was, or maybe it was because of how difficult it was to consider yourself superior to people, when they clearly lived fuller, and happier lives than you did.
Francine often told him that it was because he’s a good person, but Sirius suspected it was more because of spite than any goodness in his heart.
After all, spite was the reason he’d asked The Hat to put him in Gryffindor, the reason he’d befriended a Potter, and, most of all, it was the reason he’d embraced his role as the shame of the Blacks.
At least, until his cousin, Andromeda, had gone and married a muggleborn, and usurped his rightful role. Heh.
The look on his mother’s face the day the news came; beautiful.
With his childhood, more or less, covered in full, Sirius’ dream moved on to what, not too long ago, he would have unhesitatingly called the best years of his life; his Hogwarts years.
Every prank was remembered, every laugh he shared with his friends, every quiet moment, every secret told, every thing, his mind replayed it all.
From the nights before he, James, and Peter became animagi, waiting outside what was now called The Shrieking Shack as their friend hurt within, to the nights after they did become animagi and could truly keep Remus company at a time when to do so as themselves would have meant death or worse.
God, he’d been so happy then. So... free. But even as he relived the memories of this happy time in his life, Sirius couldn’t really enjoy it. It was tainted, you see; tainted by the knowledge of what came next, and consequently, by the presence of one Peter Pettigrew.
Sirius’ dream jumped then, skipping straight from his Hogwarts years to the height of the war some years later. It skipped to one of the last times he’d seen his godson, Harry; the night when Sirius had suggested the plan that doomed his best friend and his wife.
The worst part was, despite how much Sirius now hated that godforsaken plan, he still couldn’t deny that it had been a good one. Brilliant even. It had been the same classic kind of misdirection that had made The Marauders so successful at their pranks in Hogwarts, and the very same tactic that they’d used to great success in the fight against the Death Eaters.
Lily had suggested they tell Dumbledore of the plan, or maybe Remus, but Sirius, and later James, had vetoed it.
A secret was only as good as the people who kept it, they’d said, because at the time they’d suspected Remus of being a traitor, and Dumbledore was the only person who You-Know-Who wanted dead as much as he did Harry.
So, telling no one, they’d used Peter as Secret-Keeper, and let word “leak” out after that The Potters were hiding under the near impregnable protection of The Fidelius Charm. And since everyone knew that Sirius was the only person they would trust to be Secret-Keeper, and Sirius himself had gone to ground to better sell the lie, no one had suspected little Peter.
When Sirius had heard the news that night, on the 31st of October, 1981, he’d nearly run mad. Because, unlike everyone else who believed that Sirius had betrayed his friends, Sirius himself knew the truth. He knew the real traitor.
In a mad rage, he’d gone after Peter, tracking down the rat in little time, and, if he’d been thinking clearly, the ease with which he found him would have been his first clue that something was off.
He found Peter in a muggle café.
The rat had been sipping tea, waiting for him, and when Sirius showed, there had been no words, no hesitation, Peter had simply attacked him.
Sirius Black was a skilled fighter. In fact, some would say that he was one of the best. But Peter had the element of surprise on his side, and he had a street full of muggles to use as meat shields; Sirius didn’t stand a chance.
Soon he was disarmed and unconscious, and when he woke, he was feeling more blissful than he ever had, while his body played the part of a psychotic double agent.
He should have fought it. Might even have been able to. But what would have been the point? His friends were dead. His godson was an orphan. And it really was all his fault. So why not just accept the bliss?
He had, and that was how Sirius Black had found himself sentenced to life in level six of the Wizard prison, Azkaban.
Azkaban had seven levels, four of them below ground, and in the seventh, and lowest, level lived the dementors, their auras of misery wafting up to cover the rest of the island from their dreary accommodations.
Now, Azkaban was never a nice place to be, regardless of where in it you were, but those in the sixth level, one away from the home of the dementors as it were, had it much worse than anyone else.
The air was so oppressive there, so ingrained with the sickening aura of those twisted beasts, that not even a corporeal patronus could fully protect one from it’s effect for long.
This was where the worst of the worst criminals of Wizarding Britain were sent, and this was where they died, oftentimes by their own hands.
There was a reason the sixth level of Azkaban was known as The Graveyard.
Peter’s spell on Sirius broke in Azkaban, but by then it was much too late.
He pled with the guards, begged them, told them that he was innocent; but everyone said that after a few days in The Graveyard, so he was ignored.
It would have broken him, the constant despair and the horror and rage of knowing that he had been left to rot in here, while James and Lily’s actual killer was free somewhere out there. It almost did break him. But his animagus form helped. It dulled the effect of the dementors, making him clearheaded enough to think. To plan. And on one night, weeks after his incarceration, he came upon the idea that freed him.
While Sirius no longer had his wand, he still had his magic, and as anyone who bothered to learn about the world outside Wizarding Britain knew, a wizard did not need a wand to do magic. No, all they needed was intent, and Sirius had that to spare.
Sirius practiced everyday, nay, every waking minute, but even so, it took time. Turns out that European wizards used wands for a reason, and a lifetime of depending on it, as handy a tool as it was, had left it’s mark on his magical abilities.
Despite that though, Sirius persevered. He focused only on the spells he thought he might need, and he worked on them obsessively, until, one day, after years of effort, he was ready.
The Ministry described Azkaban as inescapable. The truth was that it wasn’t; the prisoners in it simply lacked the will and ability to actually try.
In fact, Azkaban was a rather mediocre prison all told, because, in the end, all it took for Sirius Black to escape was liberal usage of The Unlocking Charm.
In the morning, when the guards made their rounds, a corpse was found in Sirius’ cell, and without even so much as an autopsy, Sirius Black was declared dead and his body buried in an unmarked grave.
Halfway across the country, Sirius Black read about his death in the papers and was almost annoyed by how easily his rather poor conjuration had fooled everyone.
McGonagall would have given him an Acceptable at best.
Nevertheless, Sirius was now free, although as unfortunate side effect, he had also been legally declared dead, and everyone he cared about thought him to have died a traitor.
He would have loved to meet his godson, but he had no idea where the boy was, and the guilt was too strong besides, so, he decided that there was only one thing left for him to do; find the real traitor.
The next five years of Sirius’ life were consumed with finding Peter. He searched everywhere, followed every lead, left no stone unturned. But Peter was gone, vanished into the wind, and with everyday that Sirius failed to find that rat, he became even more consumed with finding him.
Before Sirius realised it, five years had passed, and he was sitting in a muggle bar in France, hating himself and the world and hoping that enough alcohol would make the pain go away, and it was in that moment that a voice had asked; “Why so serious?”
Sirius had laughed until he cried.
Sirius’ eyes opened to a familiar ceiling, and he got out of bed gently and headed to the kitchen for a drink of water.
In the kitchen, with his glass of water in hand, his eyes caught the newspaper on the dining table.
On the front page was a picture of his smiling godson (looking so much like James it hurt) and a young, bushy-haired witch who was, apparently, his girlfriend.
THE BOY WHO CONQUERED the headline read.
Sirius had read the article, numerous times in fact, and it had left him awed and happy and proud and oh-so terrified.
“Why so serious?” a voice asked, as warm arms snaked around him.
Sirius smiled, the old joke still arousing humour in him even after all this time. “Sorry I woke you,” he said.
“Don’t worry about it,” Francine replied. Then: “You should go to him,” she added.
He knew what she meant. And he wanted to; oh God, how he wanted to. But—
“Siri.” Francine turned him gently to face her, her blues eyes full of love and worry for him. “Go to him,” she said.
“Okay.” Sirius Black nodded, then he smiled and kissed his wife.
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