As much as he'd enjoyed his own teenage years, Sirius had somewhat dreaded Harry's.
He'd hoped Harry would mature enough to need The Talk, that he'd be caught up to his peers. He needed The Talk, all right, perhaps even earlier than his classmates, but he wasn't caught up in any other way.
Hearing Harry's voice drop as he still struggled with grammar or stringing a few words together only hit home how far behind he still was. As Harry's fourteenth birthday approached, Sirius found himself more sad than happy. It felt as if they'd missed some window, that Harry would never have the life he would have if he hadn't been locked in a cupboard. Harry would still need constant care, even as he matured and grew into a man.
And, really, it wasn't Harry's changes that scared Sirius the most. He knew, from his own youth, how vicious teenagers could be, himself included. The teenage years were supposed to be spent with friends, avoiding adult interaction as much as possible.
Ron and the others would hardly want Sirius constantly hanging around, keeping an eye on Harry, even in dog form. At the same time, it was hardly fair to expect Harry's friends to provide the constant supervision Harry needed. His willingness to disappear from Neville and Luna's side certainly didn't help matters.
Ron stuck by Harry's side, but the gap between them only grew, the same way Ron grew far more than Harry. Harry wouldn't join in when Ron, Fred and George practiced Quidditch at the Burrow. Usually, Ginny would keep Harry company and secretly use her brothers' broomsticks later, but she argued her way into playing.
Harry wandered away from the Weasleys' garden, back into the Burrow. He flitted past Molly when she tried fussing over him, and slumped in an armchair, staring at the fire.
Harry watched the fire for hours, getting closer and closer until Sirius had to yank him away from the blaze. He tossed a cushion in the flames, as if attempting to send it off via the Floo Network, but the flames remained orange and Sirius had to put out the burnt cushion.
Arthur managed to get tickets to the Quidditch World Cup, where Bulgaria would be facing Ireland. Ron and the others talked excitedly about Victor Krum, while Harry picked crumbs off his pumpkin pasty.
Sirius was, quite frankly, more excited than Harry. They joined Amos and Cedric Diggory. Cedric was pleasant to Harry, perhaps because he was a Hufflepuff, but he clearly didn't know how to talk to him.
Harry seemed more interested in the tents than anything else, and Remus stayed behind with Harry while Sirius and the others watched the match. Sirius wished this was something he could have shared with Harry.
Sirius cursed himself later, when the Dark Mark appeared, and he wasn't able to find Remus or Harry in the horde of people. He wanted to send his Patronus to seek out Remus, but it seemed far too conspicuous. So he waited, sick with worry, thinking surely the Death Eaters were here to take out Harry, even as they tortured muggles.
The Dark Mark lit up the sky, and Sirius followed it, wand held tightly in his hand as his heart nearly beat out of his chest.
He found Harry being interrogated by Crouch, which was almost funny, watching Crouch try to get a comprehensible answer out of them. The fact Crouch seemed to think Harry- or Ron or Hermione- cast the Dark Mark was almost laughable.
The interrogation turned to an elf named Winky, who was sobbing and drunk throughout the whole thing. Harry crouched down and touched her shoulder.
Things only got more tricky as they returned to Hogwarts, though Sirius was glad Harry would be able to join his friends in Hogsmeade. Remus was taking a break from teaching, and Moody had been hired to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts.
Harry glanced at Moody at the high table, but didn't seem to recognize the man who'd rescued him all those years ago, despite his very distinctive scarred face, magical eye and wooden leg.
"He's terrifying." Colin said, but still seemed brave enough to snap a photo. Colin breathlessly told everyone that his brother Dennis was joining.
Dennis, it turned out, was just as excitable as Colin, mouthing that he fell in the lake as he gave his brother a thumbs up. Harry flashed a thumbs up back without acknowledging the first years in any other way.
Professor McGonagall announced that Hogwarts would be hosting the Triwizard Tournament, and that Durmstrang and Beauxbatons would be joining them for the year.
Sirius was concerned, but not about the tournament. Not even all of Hogwarts was accepting of Harry, and here they were throwing two new groups into the castle.
Even as loyal as Ron was, even he seemed embarrassed to be eating next to Harry, who still ate like some sort of wild troll. Ron had the appetite of most teenage boys, and while Hermione scolded him for shoving food in his mouth, it was really nothing next to Harry. Other students gave Harry a wide berth, so he wouldn't snatch food from their plates.
Moody, he noticed, seemed even more paranoid, only drinking out of a flask at his hip. But Sirius's attention was quickly recaptured by Harry.
Dinner was hardly the most challenging aspect of Hogwarts life. Classes were only growing more difficult.
Sirius and Remus had spent hours debating what classes Harry should take. Arithmancy was a nonstarter. Care of Magical Creatures seemed impossible, considering Harry couldn't care for himself.
They'd settled on Divination, because at least it wouldn't matter if Harry ate the tea leaves. Harry smashed four teacups in his first lesson and was swiftly kicked out, even though Ginny repaired them.
In fact, now that classes were more advanced, Harry's presence only interfered more. He got kicked out of several classes for causing a disturbance, and happily roamed the halls, skiving off his lessons.
Getting Harry to participate, even in his own way, became a chore. If he wasn't interrupting the lesson in one of his creative ways, he sat, blankly, and it was impossible to tell if he was paying attention.
"Nobody pays attention during Binns' lessons anyway," Ginny said, and indeed, half the class slept through them. But Binns was one of the few professors Harry seemed interested in.
After dinner, as he begrudgingly started his homework, Ron grumbled "You're lucky, Harry."
"Lucky?!" Hermione shot Ron a scandalized look, then hissed, as if Harry couldn't hear "He can't even read or write, Ron. Have you forgotten what happened to him?!"
"I wish I couldn't write right now," Ron huffed, stabbing his quill into his ink pot.
Harry watched this exchange, seemingly utterly unoffended by either party. Then, without any warning, he reached out and tried to drink Ron's pot of ink.
"No, Harry!" Hermione scolded, quickly vanishing it with a flick of her wand. "That's not food!"
"He was trying to drink it, not eat it." Ron said, in a tone that mocked Hermione's corrections over small details. He grinned cheerfully at Harry. "Thanks, mate. I can't write without ink."
Hermione huffed and dug through her bag, giving Ron another pot of ink. Harry tried to drink that, too, possibly encouraged by Ron's reaction, and Sirius had to pull him away.
Ron had much more fun with his own divination homework, and Harry helped come up with ideas for Ron's horribly predicted death. "Eat bug Ron ghost."
"As long as it's not a spider," Ron shuddered as he bent to write a description of his death being delivered in the jaws of a giant beetle.
Hermione was so busy that she didn't bother lecturing Ron about copying Harry's idea. She had a lot of scathing things to say about Divination ever since last year. Sirius thought it was bollocks, too, but at least it was something Harry might participate in, even if he broke teacups and crystal balls. That was what Reparo was for, anyway.
Sirius wished he could fix Harry's nightmares the same way. Harry couldn't, or wouldn't, say what they were about, but he'd been waking up in terrible pain, rubbing his scar. Sirius felt it was suspiciously connected to the Dark Mark, but Harry's everyday care took up most of his attention.
All the students seemed to be looking forward to Moody's lessons. They were intense, to say the least. Rumor had it he'd shown the fourth years the Unforgivable Curses, yet somehow didn't earn a one-way ticket to Azkaban. Sirius found himself surprisingly bitter about the fact.
Hermione hardly had time to help with Harry's therapies, which was just as well, because acting as a friend and a therapist really didn't mix. On the other hand, Sirius and Remus were both Harry's caregivers and his most important teachers.
Ron stuck by Harry, but it was clear they didn't have much in common. Ron didn't enjoy painting, and Harry had no interest in chess, besides knocking over the pieces. Even Quidditch wasn't exactly a shared interest; Harry liked playing with the broom's twigs, but couldn't sit through a whole game. He clearly wasn't listening when Ron talked about Quidditch strategy or famous games.
Harry, however, enjoyed when Ron would chase him through the corridors or across the grounds, simply enjoying the feeling of running.
Ginny still played card games with Harry, but she, too, was somewhat drifting away. She spent a lot of her time with Luna, who insisted that they could keep track of Harry. Sirius wasn't particularly reassured by that promise, but he wanted to give Harry some freedom.
Sirius couldn't even relax when he didn't have Harry with him. He found himself poring over the Marauder's Map, his eyes glued to Harry's dot, waiting for it to disappear, even though Harry wasn't anywhere near the Whomping Willow this time.
Sure, Dobby could mind him for a few hours, but Hermione kept going on about how unfair it was to free the elf only to make him serve Harry. Dobby, though, seemed delighted to spend time with Harry, and likely would have chosen to anyway.
Harry worried that even Ginny and Luna would move on without Harry.
Harry wasn't a slimy git like Snivellus or Wormtail, but Sirius couldn't help thinking about how friends became enemies. He hoped that wouldn't happen to Harry, but he had no way of knowing. Divination was ridiculous, after all.
On the day the other schools arrived, as they watched the flying carriage pulled by winged horses, followed by the Durmstrang ship rising out of the sea, Sirius hoped it would mean the arrival of new friends instead of the loss of old ones.