Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters, names, places or situations described in this story, which all belong to J. .
A/N: I want to thank my friend Crowley G, for making sure that Sirius won't have several heads, and my beta, Samantha Radcliffe, who kindly agreed to check this story.
Just Making Sure
It was the night of Halloween, but Sirius Black wasn't feeling festive at all. He was sitting at the kitchen table in his London apartment, head propped on his hands, eyes closed, breathing deeply.
"You're being an idiot, Black," he said loudly to himself, without shifting position or opening his eyes. "You're just being an idiot." But what if you aren't?
"That's enough," he stood up abruptly and banged his hands on the table. "I'll go over there and check, nobody will blame me for that. I'm just making sure that everyone is safe. Just making sure."
He took a hesitant step towards the door, and paused for a second. Then, suddenly looking determined, he took out his wand, and went out of the house, casting a locking spell without a backward glance. He walked fast to the back of the apartment building, and with a flick of his wand, revealed a big motorbike standing in the shadows. Sirius climbed onto it, turned on the Muggle-repellent charms, and started the engine, which rumbled loudly. He took off into the air, the cold wind swishing in his face.
Half an hour later, Sirius landed softly in an old Muggle neighborhood. After hiding the motorbike, he looked around. "It's just too quiet," he murmured. The houses around him were indeed quiet, almost deserted. Sirius could never understand the people who chose to live here. Then again, Wormtail wasn't here by choice. They simply didn't have any other option. Or did they? Sirius had been thinking about it for a week already, and the more he considered it, the more convinced he became – nobody could suspect Wormtail. To make him the Potters' Secret-Keeper was probably a brilliant idea and Sirius was proud of himself for suggesting it. He was risking his own life, yes – but if he could save James by doing it, than it must have been the right thing to do. And it's not like you wouldn't be risking your life anyway, he smirked. They were fighting a war, and fighting meant risking lives. At least James and Lily were safe. Or as safe as they could be– considering the circumstances.
Sirius started walking towards one of the shabby houses standing on that street. Once inside, he went down the flight of stairs, into the basement. He came to a halt in front of an ordinary wall, and whispered Alohomora. A piece of the wall started to move, revealing an opening. Sirius climbed inside, preparing himself to see Peter snoozing – and froze on his tracks. The little room was empty. Sirius scanned the made bed, the dishes on the table that showed that somebody had dined there a few hours ago… Something wasn't right.
"Wormtail?" he called. "Peter? Are you here?"
There was no answer. Sirius was brave, but the silence in the room aroused a panic in him. He shifted his form, and as a great black dog, sniffed around. He could smell a little bit of the rat, but he was sure that he wasn't here at that moment. Changing back into his human form, Sirius could feel his heartbeat getting stronger. It seemed as though he wasn't an idiot after all – something must have happened. Wormtail wouldn't leave without a reason, without telling anyone. Did the Death Eaters find out about him? Had he been captured? But there is no sign of a struggle.
Sirius took a deep breath. "You must stay calm," he whispered to himself. "There must be a logical explanation for his absence. Just don't be scared yet." But no matter what he tried to say to himself, Sirius couldn't help feeling scared. Since the outbreak of the war, people were disappearing almost every week. He should've grown used to it, maybe, but each new headline in the Prophet about somebody missing still made him shiver. And he definitely couldn't accept his friend's disappearance, especially when it endangered James and his family.
He shook his head. Peter didn't disappear. He didn't, and I know it. Closing the hidden door behind him, Sirius got back to his motorbike. He would go to Godric's Hollow, he decided. Then he'd probably understand everything.
Since he could remember himself, flying always calmed Sirius. He liked it while at Hogwarts, where he used to go out on weekends and fly – usually with James. And he loved it after Hogwarts, when he bought his flying motorbike, which was carrying him now in the direction of Godric's Hollow. Sirius had known the path by heart already, having flown there on an almost daily basis during the last three years – first, to visit James and Lily, and then – his godson, Harry, as well. Godson. The sound of the word still had a funny ring to it, just like it had in the beginning. It was hard to believe that he, Sirius Black, only twenty-one years old, was a godfather. A guardian. This thought made him shiver – as much as he was honored to be chosen as the guardian, he didn't want to think about a situation where he might be needed as such. Blocking this thought out, he concentrated on the sensation of the wind around his body, and soon all of his thoughts were swept away with that wind. Forgetting his troubles, he flew faster and faster, slowing down only upon getting closer to his destination.
But as he flew lower, the sight that met his eyes made his heart stop. The Potters' house was all in ruins. The roof collapsed, and the wrecks were everywhere. Sirius landed, and turned the motorcycle off, hardly noticing what he was doing. He stood, rooted to one spot, staring at the debris. "This cannot be true," he whispered in a barely audible voice. "They cannot be dead. Wormtail couldn't have told-"And then, a thought flashed through his mind - the same thought he had earlier. There was no sign of a struggle. There- was- no- sign- of a struggle. The words echoed in his head. No sign of a struggle. Sirius was shaking all over. He betrayed them. The little bastard betrayed them – and now they're all- He couldn't bring himself to think about it. This wasn't happening to him. It was he who suggested using Peter as a Secret Keeper, he who persuaded Lily and James that it would be for the best, that it would be safer. And it was his fault that they were – dead. They're dead. They're dead because of you, because of your foolish mistake. If it weren't for you, they'd be alive now.
Sirius's vision blurred, and he felt sick and swayed. But a sudden noise brought him back to his senses. Automatically, he reached for his wand, and took a few unsteady steps forward. A moment later, a massive figure came out of the ruins. Sirius lowered his wand as he realised who it was. He desperately wanted to ask what happened – he opened his mouth – but he couldn't bring himself to do it.
"He survived," whispered Hagrid, and Sirius noticed that he was holding a small bundle in his hands. He survived. But who was 'he'? James or Harry? Either way, Sirius was too afraid to accept it. And again, when he wanted to ask – his voice was lost. But Hagrid seemed to know what Sirius was thinking.
"Little Harry, he – he's all right," he said hoarsely. "And they say," he added in a whisper, as though afraid to say the next words, "they say that You-Know-Who is gone. Tha' Harry made him disappear."
Harry was alive. Sirius wanted to breath with relief, but a pounding started in his head. That means that James- and Lily- They're gone. Sirius couldn't bear it anymore. He wanted to scream with rage, to run away, to wake up and discover this was just a bad nightmare. But as he started walking towards the house, he felt a pain so strong, he knew for certain – it wasn't a dream. This was reality. It was a war, and people died. His best friend and his wife died.
He stepped over what had previously been the house-threshold, and entered the space that - only yesterday - was the living room. He felt as though the world had collapsed – there, lying on the carpet, was James. Dead. Lily's body was sprawled nearby. Both of them looked – so peaceful, so quiet. Sirius stood there, staring at them - yet not seeing anything, as though a black curtain was drawn over his eyes. The world had stopped, and the silence was ringing in his ears.
A baby's cry made Sirius snap out of his state of shock. He looked back. Hagrid was watching him with a look of pity on his face. "Everythin' will be all righ', Sirius," he said gently. No, it won't. It's my entire fault, and it's never going to be all right. I will never be able to make up for what I've done. Unless…A sudden thought occurred to him.
"Give Harry to me, Hagrid. I'm his godfather. I – I'll look after him," he said quickly.
"I'm sorry, Sirius," said Hagrid sadly, "but Professor Dumbledore gave me orders. Little Harry is ter go ter his aunt an' uncle."
"But – wha- Muggles? Harry will go to live with Muggles? Are you insane?" Sirius couldn't believe what he was hearing. How could they even consider it?
"Tha' is what Prof. Dumbledore told me," shrugged Hagrid.
Sirius was always impatient with Hagrid's blind obedience to Dumbledore's words. But this was just too much for him at that moment. Hardly restraining himself not to explode, he spoke with a suppressed voice.
"Hagrid, I saw them. I saw Lily's sister." Just saying Lily's name was painful. "They won't accept Harry. They won't raise him as a wizard. He can't live with these Muggles, for crying out loud!"
"Look, Sirius, I know tha' you only want wha' is best fer Harry, but Dumbledore said it was fer his protection," answered Hagrid quietly.
Protection. He was supposed to protect James and Lily. And he failed. And Peter – anger like he never knew surged through him as he thought about Peter. He was a traitor. A turncoat. He deserved revenge. Understanding that Hagrid won't agree to give him Harry, a new thought came to Sirius's mind – he will track Peter down – revenge James and Lily's death. I can do it; I can transform and sense where he has gone. A sudden rush of energy went through him. He couldn't wait any longer.
"You're right, Hagrid," he said with a sigh, pretending to agree. "I guess that Harry will be safer there. Here, take my motorbike; use it to bring Harry over there. I won't need it any more."
In the darkness of the night, a big black dog was running along the streets of Godric's Hollow, pausing here and there to sniff the road. The familiar scent of the rat was still fresh, and it made Sirius want to run faster. Wishing he still had his motorbike with him, he kept on running, almost automatically. The thoughts swirled in his head – he had to catch him. To revenge. To kill. Sirius had never killed anyone before. He saw Death Eaters killing – casting dark spells without a thought, sending the Avada Kedavra towards his fellows from the Order, towards him as well – until now, he has always managed to escape the curses. But he was lucky – plenty of others, who were in the same situation, were killed. Did Lily and James have a chance to fight for their lives? They would have fought; he had no doubt at that.
Distracted, Sirius lost the track he was following. He stopped as soon as he realised it, and doubled back. Concentrating on smelling the air, he walked slowly, until he could feel the scent again. Following it, he crossed the street, and continued jogging, slower this time. I must stay focused, or I'll lose him. But his thoughts drifted away once again. What was it that Hagrid said earlier? Voldemort was gone- and Harry made him disappear- what was going on? Could it possibly be true? Well…it seems so. Harry's alive – Voldemort would have killed him, if he could – so if Harry's alive, that must mean that he couldn't - Voldemort couldn't kill him. But why? Sirius was confused – he couldn't find any possible explanation to this question. He shook his head – he must focus on Peter's trail.
He kept on running lightly, until the trail led him out of the village and into a forest nearby. There, he slowed down – it was much harder to feel the smell that way. As if it weren't enough, there were places where the small rat sneaked easily, but the dog had some difficulties passing. Treading carefully, and creeping deeper into the forest, Sirius managed to stay on track for some time. The dawn was breaking, and although he was tired, the specks of red that appeared in the sky encouraged him to continue. But then, as he reached a small clearing, he got confused. The rat's scent was here – but it became fainter, and seemed to dissolve in the air. Sirius sniffed attentively. He could feel another smell, and it took him a moment to recognize it – Peter smelled that way in his human form. He probably took a break here, changed back to a human, and then continued as a rat once more. However, he couldn't sense the rat any longer – it was like Peter disappeared.
Bewildered, Sirius transformed to his human self as well. How- and where- The realisation dawned on him quickly. Of course – he disapparated. I've wasted all that time, following his trail, and it is totally useless now. Sirius sank to the ground, despair surrounding him. It seemed as though every decision he had made in the last week, and especially in the last hours, was wrong, no - was disastrous. He had thought that to change the Secret Keeper would be a wise move – and it failed miserably. He had thought they could trust Wormtail – and he turned out to be a traitor. The spy. Sirius smirked. Of course, and all that time he thought that Remus might be the spy. It was complete idiocy – Remus would have never betrayed them, Sirius should have known that.
"I'm sorry, Moony," he whispered, looking at the sky. "How could I ever suspect you?"
He should have suspected Peter from the very beginning – he was the coward among the Marauders, not Moony. But you were a fool, Sirius. And look what happened because of your foolishness. You played right into Voldemort's hands – handed him the Potters, practically invited him to come and kill them. Sirius could feel the hatred boiling in him once again – he would correct his mistake, and he wouldn't fail this time. He would catch Peter, and make sure that justice would be done.
"Concentrate, Black – where could he go?" he muttered, frowning. Sirius tried to imagine what he would have done if he had just betrayed his best friends, but the thought only made him sick. Instead, he sought for a magical way to resolve his problem. For a few minutes, he pondered over what he knew about tracing Apparition. "Got it!" he snapped his fingers in resolution, and stood up quickly. The despair he felt a few moments ago was gone, only to be replaced by a stubborn desire to find Peter. He took out his wand, and swishing it through the air, muttered "Vestigio". Blue sparks appeared in the air. Some of them had dissolved, but the others lingered. Levitating a stone towards the spot where the sparks were concentrated, Sirius murmured "Portus Origo". The stone shone brightly, and then fell to the ground. He now had a Portkey which could take him to the place where Peter apparated. Hoping he wasn't doing something extremely foolish once again, Sirius grabbed the stone, and felt a jerk at his navel, while the world started spinning around him.
Sirius fell to the ground, and hastened to straighten himself up. He was standing in a small shaded alley between two houses. Slowly, he went out to the street, where Muggles were already hurrying to work. As he looked around him, Sirius recognized the place – it was the same neighbourhood where Peter's hideout was located. He could hardly believe his luck – was Peter stupid enough to come back here? If he's in there, it will make everything much easier. Hurrying towards the street he left only a few hours ago, Sirius felt his heart beating madly. This was it – he was going to capture Peter and to make him pay. Unable to think logically anymore, he rushed forward. He couldn't care less about the Muggles around him, who were turning their heads to watch the strange man who was hasting down the street, holding a stick that looked like a kid's "magic wand".
As he drew closer to the house where he expected to find Peter, Sirius suddenly stopped. A small figure was coming out of the shabby building, walking nervously as he squinted at the street around him. He didn't seem to notice Sirius, but Sirius couldn't contain himself anymore.
"Peter," he yelled, his voice low and hoarse, striding towards him. Peter jumped, and started shaking, dread in his eyes. But as Sirius came closer, and as people around the street turned to see what was going on, a look of determination replaced the fear.
Infuriated, and feeling such hatred that he started to shake as well, Sirius raised his wand. Peter gave a sob, and Sirius half-expected him to start begging for mercy – but Peter's reaction was startling: "You betrayed them!" he shrieked. "Lily and James, Sirius! How could you!"
Stunned, hardly believing his ears, Sirius glared at Peter, white with rage and confusion. Not comprehending what was going on, he stared at his so-called friend, as the smaller man suddenly made a gashing move with his hand behind his back.
A deafening blast shook the street, and an eerie silence prevailed. And then, as if in slow motion, Sirius watched Peter making another move with his wand. Transfixed, he saw something falling to the ground, specks of blood dripping from it. Paralyzed with shock, he was the only one to witness the transformation of the man before him, who changed into a rat and scurried away quickly. Escaped. That was the only word on Sirius's mind. He escaped. His gaze moved towards the thing that fell earlier – and with a sickened feeling, he realised it was Peter's finger. Unable to glance away, he kept staring at it.
But a few moments later, tiny 'pops' sounded around him, bringing Sirius back from his daze. He turned around quickly, only to see a horrible sight – there was an enormous crack down the street, and lifeless bodies were scattered all around it, covered with blood. Further away, people were screaming in terror. Hit Wizards were apparating nearby, surrounding him.
This was too much for Sirius. Barely understanding that he was the one who was going to be blamed for the death of his best friend, and letting go of all emotion, he simply stood there – and laughed.