Sirius Black, the Prisoner of Azkaban
Chapter 2 - Seeing Harry
Sirius dumped his sodden paper just outside the door, still turned to the page with Peter on it. Glancing up and down the silent, sweltering street through a heat haze, he was then satisfied that no threat was posed towards him. Grinning, if a dog could do so, he bounded over to the dewy grass, springy and soft, clearing away for a moment, the bleak memory of grey stones and iron gates.
When Bellina came out, she noticed the dreary dog playing in the sunshine, rolling over the lawn and flower beds alike. Something had changed about the animal - only hours before its head had been drooping, paws dragging...and now, he seemed full of vibrant energy, almost as though a dark cloud had come - and gone, blown off into the horizons.
Tapping a Daily Prophet to her chin, Bellina sat down on the low garden wall and was soon joint by the panting beast, ears pricked up. She smiled. "You read the paper too? I'm sure someone's missing you. Now smile, because everyone needs to."
A snort escaped the dog's snout and it jumped up onto the wall, squinting down at the front page. Glaring back up at him was his own picture, sporting long, tatty hair down to his elbows, sunken cheeks and eyes. For a moment, Sirius wasn't sure if that was him or not. The fierce snarl planted across that lifeless face made him shudder just slightly. Is that who he'd turned into? A murderer?
"Oh dear." Sighed Bellina softly, her face expelling fragility in her gentle curves. "That's Sirius Black. You know why he was in? Please, don't ask, it isn't becoming. And to think he has escaped..."
Surely she didn't believe what she had heard? Padfoot shook his head and turned it to the rolling clouds and sapphire sky, beckoning with joy any creature gifted with flight. The woman was already rolling up the paper and throwing it onto the road carelessly. A brisk wind blew it over onto its front, the pages rippling in the wind lazily. The dog jumped out and snagged it between gnashing teeth, depositing it in her lap.
Bellina scratched him behind the ears. "No, you're right. I shouldn't leave that lying about a Muggle street." She stretched, yawning. "Let's take a wander down the street, my friend, I'm quite certain no escaped prisoner would be here."
Sirius snorted, but trotted to carry up to her swinging strides. His sharp eyes watched her very, very carefully, but soon turned to the road. Already he was planning to leave, but something stalled him. No matter how he reasoned that it was just a need for shelter, no matter how long he told himself it was just for safety, this something told him otherwise.
A sudden silence had fallen as a shroud over the street, lying thick on the dog and its companion. Bellina was shifting the paper from hand to hand, looking around the street as if expecting something to be there. She stopped a moment and leant against a light pole, inspecting the front page once more briefly. She appeared almost wistful, but Sirius wasn't watching to notice.
He was frozen in mid step, ears perked. Lying on the grass of the garden of the house to the left was an image from out of a nightmare, a ghost of the conscience. The dog's eyes were riveted on the nightmarish apparition, tongue hanging out in fear. Bellina turned to see where he had got to and frowned. "Come!"
Once a few houses down, she said in a low voice, "Yes, that was Harry Potter in case you were wondering. It doesn't do to make a scene, according to my sister."
Sirius was barely listening. Just his luck to have a run in with someone like that! He was still shaken from seeing the ghost of James lying on the lawn, face upturned to the sky. And that scar - slashed cruelly across the forehead, angry and vivid. Suppressing a shudder, he trotted after the witch, wondering what would happen to Harry if Peter Pettigrew decided it was time to act.
Locating his now dry newspaper from the swim to Newhaven, Padfoot glared down at the waving family. He didn't like the situation at all. He couldn't just hang around Little Whinging - no, he had to first settle himself up at Hogwarts before the Dementors caught up with him. That's where Pettigrew would be. He looked out at the sky, deepening from a light crystal blue to a dark navy, sporting tiny pinpricks of light and a crescent moon.
Gathering up the paper in his jaw, Sirius bounded out through the slightly ajar backdoor and stopped for a moment to assess the best way to Hogwarts in Scotland. Certainly he'd have to stay in this form as not to be caught. Harry was still in danger as long as he waited around or was caught carelessly by a quick, insignificant human detour.
Something unusual pierced the silent night. Raised, heated voices. Debating with himself for a few seconds, Black thought what the heck and as steathily as his dog form would allow, he crept towards the source of the sound, his snout quivering. He could pick up the scent of the boy he'd seen earlier that day and sweat, pulsing anger or fear.
Silhouetted against a patch of light was that ghost of the past, wand sticking awkwardly out of his fingers, owl cage under one arm and lugging a trunk with another. Realising that the boy was coming into his range, the escaped convict ducked into some bushes and warily eyed the howling figure standing where Harry Potter had been scant seconds ago. Nearby hedges quivered with anticipation as wind fluttered through them breezily for just a moment.
Tearing his sharp eyes from number four Privet Drive, Sirius ripped from the hedge and ploughed into another, sending a stray cat skittering aside in fright. He'd lost sight of the boy! Damn it, damn it, damn it...No use kicking yourself for it...you'll see him later...A loud scrape screeched from a nearby pavement. Mentally telling himself to screw that, he trotted quietly off after the occassional grunt and shifting.
He continued to follow Harry for a while, almost losing his grip on the newspaper clenched in his jaw. It seemed hours later, even though it was just a few streets. Surely the boy's adrenaline would have faded, he couldn't possibly go any further.
Padfoot now tread softly, but did not bother with hiding himself in bushes. He could see Harry up ahead, drawing to a stop. The boy looked dejected as he set down the empty owl cage and stood, blinking for a moment. Then he sat down hard on a low wall, running a hand through his unruly hair, glaring up at the street lights. There was a panicked look darting in his green eyes and suddenly Sirius wanted nothing more than to burst out of the shadows.
Instead, he contented himself by scurrying over to a dark bush set between a garage and a fence, giving him a good view of the back of Harry's head. He realised that the boy was shivering, but it couldn't be from the cold - it was a hot night. His head went from side to side, as though he was nervously scanning the road and his hands were clenching his wand. In the long silence that followed, Sirius found himself becoming more impatient. Move, boy, Goddammit, move!
The ghost of the past slowly bent over and opened the trunk with trembling hands. He reached in and was on the verge of drawing out something that looked almost familiar when he stopped suddenly. The boy shifted uncomfortably, gripping his wand a little more tightly. He turned to look right at the gap where the escaped convict was.
Sirius nearly yapped in his surprise, then realised Harry's eyes were gliding right over him. The boy muttered something under his breath and a light appeared at the end of his wand and stared without cease at the crouching black dog. The watched stared back, caught. Harry backed away quickly and went flying over his trunk, meeting a hard landing in the gutter.
The flash of light that followed revealed the dubious but proud Knight Bus. Black figured that he didn't want to be hanging around anymore, seeings as what had been a puddle of light became a flood. He turned and bolted.
The sun rose early the next morning, cheerfully bright and warm. A dog snoozing beneath a bus shelter cracked open an eye, then another. He sneezed then crept out from under the dirty seat. Once clear of the shelter, he bounded out and rolled in a dirt patch until his fur was strewn with dirt. He then shook himself out and scratched at his ear.
Sirius almost allowed himself to be lured into transforming back to his human form, just for the sun. He cancelled this thought with difficulty and approach the map of the surrounding area tacked onto the side of the bus shelter, bus routes roaming like scriggly crayon lines. He wasn't interested in these, rather the bold black arrow pointing upwards. Written clearly enough even for him next to it was: North-East, London.
Padfoot pawed the ground. Which way was north-east? He had no doubt that his next move would be far easier if he went to the city. He was distracted when a lady rounded the corner and sat down. She was reading a newspaper avidly. Sirius watched her look at the time and curse.
"You'd think a bus to London would be on time!" she said crossly, not even bothering to heed the fact that she, too, was late.
The dog cocked its head, lazily wagging its tail. The woman was so occupied with the paper that she didn't even notice him. It wasn't long before he could hear the grinding of gears and groans that signalled the bus' approach. The other occupant of the shelter shot to her feet and strode angrily over to the road. Sirius followed slowly, not wanting to attract attention.
When at last the machine crawled to a stop, the door eased itself open as if it had never previously worked out that this was its function. The woman storm up the two minature steps and threw down a few coins at the bus driver. No one noticed the dog accompanying her until an eldery man sitting near the middle began to sneeze violently.
"Damn allergies!" he muttered and scowled. "Hey, LADY, this your dog?"
The woman became flustered. "No, of course not."
She made a hasty trip to the back and up the steps to the next level. Sirius noticed that the man had a newspaper clutched in his bony, old grip. And the pictures on it were moving, just visible under the hand used to hide it. He nudged the man's knee and put a paw up to the paper, eyes innocent yet accusing.
The old man glared at him. "Dogs aren't allowed on the bus."
Sirius was indifferent and settled himself so that he could see out the window. A badly chipped sign off the to the side read: London, 75 kilometres.
He knew it was risky and that he shouldn't have done it, but at the moment, Sirius Black didn't care. He was sitting outside Kings Cross Station, still and quiet. He waited with baited breath then, seeing the owl swoop down on him, he pulled in his tongue. With difficulty, he pulled off the folded parchment and didn't even notice the messenger swooping off.
Looking around once, twice, he dodged into the bathrooms and transformed within the safety of a cubicle. Black supposed he already knew what the answer would be, but was still nervous as he opened it. Sure enough, it was the reply from Quality Quidditch Supplies.
Dear Mr. Potter,
Certainly, we would be pleased to inform our equal in Hogsmeade would accept payment and deliver via your means, however unusual they may be. When you have picked up the required item, the amount due will be taken from vault seven hundred and eleven.
Manager of Quality Quidditch Supplies, London
Now he had to get going. A lot of land lay between London and Scotland. Sirius wanted to be there by the latest, November. He had a long way to go, but first, there was some road kill that looked rather tasty...