Chapter Two: The First Reverse
Sirius just gaped at the fine Lady for a moment before he regained a little composure. “Wait a moment—you’re just going to ‘zap’ me back in time, into my former self, so I can change things up a bit?”
The Lady nodded. “In this case, I can do whatever it takes to ensure that my Chosen is taken care of. Since you failed during this go around, I’ll see to it that you make up for that lapse in judgment.”
“And you’re letting me go back knowing what I know now?”
“It would be foolish to take you back in time without your current knowledge. You would undoubtedly make the same error, and all would be for naught. I don’t like wasting time, especially my own.”
Sirius nodded and began to pace in a small circle. He could make different choices now. This was his chance to give Harry a good life. Hell, if he played his cards right, this would be a chance to make certain James and Lily lived to see Harry grow up.
Sirius ceased his pacing and turned to the Lady, only to find that she was watching him with a calculated gleam in her eye. “What?” he asked defensively.
“You are very much the arrogant wizard, aren’t you? I’m not sending you back to save the world, you know. You are going back to keep your vow to Me. Anything else in purely incidental.”
“I understand,” said Sirius gravely. “I did make the vow, and I do intend to honor it.”
“Good,” she nodded at him. “Now, if you’re ready….”
There was a bright flash of dark, as if a muggle black light bulb had exploded in his face, and Sirius blinked furiously. When he opened his eyes, he found himself standing at the end of a long, lavishly decorated table, waiting to give the ‘Best Man’ speech at James and Lily’s wedding reception.
Sirius looked to his left and saw James and Lily sitting in the center of the table, laughing in trepidation at the thought of what horrible speech he was about to give. Suddenly Sirius found himself filled with fear and love and grief, and he wanted badly to gather the dear couple in a hard hug and never let go.
This was the beginning of the end for them, he knew, and they looked so deliriously happy. They would only live for another four years at this point, and Sirius’ chest hurt to think about it.
He lowered his head a moment to gather his thoughts when a voice called out, “Just get it over with, the suspense is killing us!” Through the general laughter that the comment raised, Sirius could hear a very distinct guffaw. When he looked up to the gathering of friends and co-workers, Sirius could see Peter Pettigrew sitting at a small round table near the front of the room. There were others sitting with him, of course, but Sirius could only see Peter.
And then he saw red.
Quicker than a flash, Sirius had his wand in his hand (Hit-Wizards always went in public armed, even to weddings) and he pointed it with determination, uttering the words Avada Kedavra loudly and clearly.
Pettigrew never had time to look surprised before he fell in a lifeless heap from his chair.
Because James was Sirius’ partner at work, and because they were both popular and well-liked, there was a large contingent of Aurors attending both the wedding and reception, and they all rose as one body and quickly disarmed and subdued Sirius. James merely sat in shock at the act he just witnessed.
Lily began to weep quietly, running her mascara down her cheeks and onto her lovely white wedding dress.
Sirius was numb to what followed. He was questioned, both with and without veritaserum, but he never said a work beyond “He was Death-eater Scum” in his defense. Examination of Pettigrew’s body showed no Dark Mark, but Sirius offered no explanation.
The trial was very short. There were too many witnesses to the crime, so Sirius was convicted quickly. Because of the unexpectedness and the severity of the crime, the Kiss was administered right off in the courtroom, rather than have the convicted wait around in Azkaban for an undetermined amount of time.
Another flash of dark found Sirius in the same black-on-black room, facing a very disgruntled Lady Magic.
“I’m sorry,” he said contritely. “I’m so very sorry. I just…they were sitting there looking so happy, and I saw Peter and I knew what was coming, and I just lost control of myself.” His head was bowed low and his hands were clasped tightly together.
The Lady sighed. “Yes, well, perhaps that was too soon a point in the past for you to begin. If you feel you can control yourself, we shall try again, yes?”
Sirius nodded quickly. Another flash of dark and….
Sirius was standing in a small crowded chamber listening to the excited chatter of two dozen children all around him. He knew this place, but could not properly recall….
A door opened and an older witch, dressed in dark robes decorated with a bright tartan, walked into the room, and quiet descended. “I shall now take you to the Great Hall for your sorting. Please be quiet until every name has been called, and once you have been sorted you will go to your House’s table to sit with your new House-mates. Please follow me.”
Sorting? He was eleven years old again? Oh, Merlin, this was going to be a disaster! Sirius remembered briefly how Harry had told him that the Hat had wanted to put him into Slytherin House, but he begged to go anywhere else. Would having the mind of a much older person affect how the Hat would sort him?
Sirius sighed to himself and followed the rest of the First Years into the Great Hall. There was only one way to find out.
Sirius glanced around him, trying to find his former friends. Remus was easy to find because he was shying away from everyone else, as if his mere touch could transmit the lycanthropy that he had managed to keep hidden for so long. James was easy to spot as well, because of the unruly hair, mostly. Sirius grinned a bit to himself. Harry sure had gotten a bad shake in that department.
Peter was harder to see because he was so much shorter than everyone else. Sirius planned to keep an eye on him, though. The hate still ran hot through his veins, but he managed not to draw his wand.
Because his last name was ‘Black’, Sirius was called to the Hat before any other of his mates.
Well, they weren’t ‘mates’ yet. It was only after the first few classes that they became friends. Sirius’ family was unfortunately well known, so most of his year-mates tried to steer clear of him in the early days of the school year. Things had eased up by November, but he wasn’t really ‘friends’ with James, Peter, and Remus until mid-September.
Hmmm…it was after the full moon, when Remus was ill, that James and Sirius started talking—as they caught Remus up on missed assignments, in fact.
In any case, a suddenly nervous Sirius Black approached the three-legged stool and sat gently, dreading what was to come.
“Well, well, this is an interesting pickle, isn’t it?” The Hat’s voice filled his head.
“Is it?” thought Sirius right back.
“Indeed it is. I feel as if I should know you somehow. Your mind is much older than it should be at your age.”
“We’re forced to grow up fast in my family. They’re not kind, most of the time.”
“Yes, you seem very reluctant to follow their footsteps. You had an ancestor who was a former Headmaster here, you know.”
“I do know that,” Sirius huffed. “He was a right ponce, that one. Always poking his nose in my business through is portrait in our family home. I don’t need his guidance now like I didn’t need it then.”
“Very well, then…better be—Gryffindor!!!”
Sirius sighed in relief as he removed the Hat and handed it back to Professor McGonagall. He loped casually to Gryffindor table, where his housemates applauded his arrival.
This was the first place that he ever felt like someone important. He didn’t have to live in his grandfather’s shadow here, or worry about following in the Dark footsteps of the rest of his family. Sheep, all of them, really. But here? In Hogwarts? Sirius was considered an individual, apart from his family.
Well, most of his family. James Potter was a cousin, actually, but they never met before school. James’ grandmother, Dorea, was Sirius’ great-aunt. She caused quite the scandal by marrying into a Light family, and Sirius’ family practically disowned her. Just like they were practically going to disown him when they find out about the sorting.
Oh, well, there’s nothing for it now.
Remus Lupin was next to be sorted—well, next that Sirius paid attention to, and Sirius made a room for the shabby-looking boy. Remus took the seat with a grateful smile and they both turned back to the sorting. Peter Pettigrew was next to come to Gryffindor table, and he took a seat across from Remus. Sirius tried hard not to scowl in distaste. He was pretty sure he managed.
Finally came James Potter, and Sirius slid over to make room for him on his other side. James nodded in greeting, a slight smile on his face, but he did not speak.
The rest of the sorting went by quickly, and soon food was delivered. Sirius startled at the sight of so much food magically appearing, and he regretfully remembered Kreacher back in his ‘real’ time.
‘That’s another thing I’ll have to fix,’ he thought. He simply could not allow Kreacher to become bitter and insane again. It really wasn’t fair to the house elf, and Sirius felt badly about how it all turned out with him.
After the feast were the normal announcements, and then the prefects led the students out of the Great Hall to the dormitories. Sirius took no time in choosing the same bed he slept in the first time around, and James took the bed to the left of him, near the window. Remus and Peter were on Sirius’ right, with Peter near the door.
For the first time since he escaped Azkaban, Sirius slept soundly and dreamlessly.
The weekend passed with Sirius trying to get to know James and Remus a little better, hoping to solidify the friendship earlier. Peter wasn’t around much the first two days, and Sirius remembered that from the first time around. Back then he had wondered what it was all about. Now he had had some sort of clue as to what Peter was into. Still, he had to play a part here.
“So,” he asked as he joined James and Remus in the common room, “Do either one of you know where Pettigrew’s been the last two days?”
Remus looked startled to be asked any question, but James looked unconcerned. “No, not really. Why?”
Sirius shrugged. “No reason. It’s just, we’ve only just gotten here, you know. Classes start tomorrow, and the three of us have managed to make our way to the infirmary, owlrey, Quidditch Pitch, and library, but we haven’t seen Peter anywhere other than the dorm room at bedtime.”
Remus frowned. “That is strange. The castle is large, of course, but we should have seen him around in a few of those places while we were getting our bearings. I even managed to talk the Gryffindor ghost, Sir Nicholas, into giving me a tour of the classrooms so I don’t get too lost tomorrow, and I never saw Peter in the halls.”
Sirius was fairly certain that Peter had, in the early days of their Hogwarts career, taken it upon himself to haunt the hallway outside the Prefect’s bathroom on the fifth floor. He remembered several of the female prefects whispering about the ‘creepy little creep’ that was hiding in the shadows there. Peter had always been good at hiding and skulking around. It really was no wonder his animagus form was a rat. He liked to stalk pretty girls, but he always managed to make himself look harmless.
Lily once said she never really felt comfortable around Peter unless at least one of the others was around as well. Alice Greenway had agreed with the sentiment.
Sirius sighed at the thought of Alice Greenway.
Sweet Alice, who later married Frank Longbottom, was to be Sirius’ counterpart in protecting Harry, although Sirius doubted she ever gave a vow to Magic to do so.
Peter had a singular fixation on Alice in school. Frank was not in the picture back then, having been a few years older than them. He was already an Auror when Alice met him after leaving Hogwarts, having graduated in Sirius’ third year of school.
Given how taken he was with Alice when they met at a ministry function during Auror training, Sirius was certain that if he had been around, Peter would have been squashed for the attention (unwanted) that he gave Alice in school.
Peter’s fixation with Alice would certainly have explained Peter’s absences before classes began, because Alice was in Hufflepuff house, and her dormitory was not near Gryffindor.
At the time, Sirius did not know where Hufflepuff house was located, but he was sure Peter had found out. During their school years, Peter fawned after Alice Greenway much like James fawned after Lily Evans. The difference being, James was vocal in his admiration of Lily—and in his yearning to date her—and Peter only silently watched and stalked Alice.
Sirius made light conversation with Remus and James for a while, striving to build a friendship with his two dorm-mates before classes made it a necessity. The topic of conversation was, of course, the upcoming class schedule and which classes each was most looking forward to. James and Sirius were looking forward to Charms and Potions most, while Remus was most interested in Care of Magical Creatures and Herbology. Since CoMC was going to have to wait until their third year, Remus chattered on about his grandmother’s garden in Wales and the magical plants he could watch but never interact with.
They also talked about the interesting portraits in the hallways, and how useful they could be if a new student got lost. There was Sir Cadogan, a stalwart but inept knight that tried to challenge Remus to a duel before dinner the evening before, and the giggling ladies in waiting just outside the Great Hall that liked to call out to the older male students when they went to meals.
Sirius enjoyed the conversation, remembering his first first year at Hogwarts. He had fun trying to find any hidden passageways in the classroom halls or secret stairways in the older towers. The four Marauders spent many fun-filled evenings jumping trick stairs and playing pranks on unsuspecting students as they entered or left the library or Great Hall. Of course, that had been after firm friendships had been formed, and when they were much older
Shortly before the lunch hour, Sirius made an excuse to leave the dorm and head to the library. He left the others on good terms and he felt really good about his budding friendships.
His feelings changed shortly after, when he entered the library and spotted Peter Pettigrew alone at a table in the back of the large main room—and he was silently staring at the table occupied by Lily Evans and Alice Greenway.
Alice and Lily appeared to be comparing special stationary sets, which really didn’t make sense to Sirius, and they didn’t seem to notice Peter sitting nearby. Sirius silently made his way through the oddly crowded library until he was stationed behind Peter, and he stood in the shadow of a bookshelf watching.
Peter appeared to be pantomiming wand movements with his bare hands. His lips were moving as well, but from his current position, Sirius could not tell what spell he was practicing. Sirius watched for a few moments, and he noticed that Peter would move his hands in a spell formation for a few rotations, and then he would look up and concentrate on Lily and Alice—or rather Alice. After staring for a moment, Peter would return to his pantomime.
Frustrated with not knowing what Peter was up to, Sirius moved from behind the shorter boy to a position at a table across the aisle from him. Peter never even noticed, which gave Sirius several minutes of free-watching.
And what he saw made him see blood-red.
Peter was mouthing the word Imperio to go with his pantomime wand movements.
It was bad enough that Peter Pettigrew was going to grow up to become a Death-Eater and cause the attack and death of Sirius’ best friend, now—as a child—Peter was trying to perfect the most heinous Unforgivable in the collection.
Avada Kadavra would kill you outright, and Crucio would cause untold pain, but the Imperio was designed to take away a person’s will. It was designed to control another human being, and that made it, in Sirius’ mind, the most unforgivable Unforgivable.
And Peter seemed to be aiming his efforts toward Alice, which was a horrible thing to behold.
Sirius knew he was sent back to make sure Harry was taken care of, which also meant making sure that James and Lily were safe. Having a budding Death-Eater in the vicinity would not make them safe. Already Peter was showing signs of wanting to control others, even at his limited ability, and that would put others in this school in danger.
If he did manage to perform a proper Imperio, if there could be such a thing, then he would not stop at controlling just Alice. Peter was just bad news, no matter what time period they were in. Someone would have to take care of him, and Sirius was the only one that knew how bad he really could get.
The next day was the first day of classes, and Sirius his seat with the other Gryffindor first years with steel in his spine. He kept a close eye on Peter as they studied their timetables, but Peter seemed to be only paying attention to the other Gryffindors.
Sirius noticed that their first class was Charms with Hufflepuff, followed by Herbology with Hufflepuff.
Two classes in a row where Peter could gawk at Alice Greenway and potentially prepare his Imperio Curse.
Sirius shook his head, vowing to deal with Peter as soon as he got the opportunity.
That opportunity came in the transition period between classes, when the Gryf/Huff first years were moving from the third floor Charms classroom to the front entranceway toward the greenhouses. During the unofficial Castle Ghost tour, Sir Nicholas pointed out the used classrooms, the unused classrooms that students had private study in, the passage way to the kitchens and the various bathrooms on each floor.
Sir Nicholas did not point out the other useful information that students needed to be aware of, such as the fact that the third stairway moved from the second to the fourth floors three times a day, or the fact that there were trick stairs on two other staircases.
In fact, the two groups of students were traversing on one of those staircases now. Sirius remembered from his first time around that the fifth step down from top would disappear at twenty minutes past the hour on even-numbered hours. The first Charms class ran over by ten minutes due to a spirited debate between Lily Evans and Professor Flitwick, and Professor Flitwick had to send a message to Professor Sprout that the students were going to be late, so they were all traversing that stairway at 10:20 o’clock, just as the disappearing step vanished.
Sirius had maneuvered his way right behind Peter in the crowd of students, and when they approached the staircase, he ‘stumbled’ on a loosened shoelace and fell forward, pushing Peter onto the stairs ahead of them. Peter over-corrected when he was forced forward, and his right foot landed where the disappearing step should have been. Instead, Peter fell though the space between the steps and crashed to the stone floor in the entrance hall.
His neck was broken on impact, killing him instantly.
Students on the stairs and in the hall screamed, drawing professors from all of the classrooms. A crowd gathered quickly, wanting to see what had happened. Everyone who saw the incident was questioned by Headmaster Dumbledore and Professor Flitwick. Sirius admitted to tripping and knocking into Peter, and Remus confessed to having seen Sirius stumble on his shoelace, which was still untied.
Peter’s body was gently removed from the scene and his parents were notified of his death, but the whole thing was ruled to be an accident. Peter’s mother even forgave Sirius and admonished him to make sure he knotted his shoelaces from then forward.
The next few days were incredibly somber at the wonderful school. Students continued to attend classes, but the Headmaster spelled the disappearing steps to stay in place so that more accidents would not happen.
The dynamic had changed in Gryffindor Tower, however. James and Remus were cordial to Sirius, but they never became close friends. Sirius tried many times through the years, offering to help study or to bring snacks and drinks from the kitchens, but James kept his distance and Remus allowed his condition to separate him from the rest of the students. James did manage to attract Lily’s attention, and through her James became friends with Severus Snape. They became a sort of perfect trio, tutoring younger students while raising the grading curve through their own test scores. Sirius could only watch as his first and best friends drifted far from his grasp.
On the last day of Seventh year, Sirius graduated knowing that while he would be going into Auror training without James by his side. James had gone into curse-breaking while Lily and Severus gained their masteries in Potions.
Voldemort once again gained power, and Sirius fought long and hard to keep the Dark wizard from taking over Magical Britain. Alice Greenway did marry Frank Longbottom, and they both became fine, successful Aurors, and Sirius often joined them on raids against Death-Eaters. Sirius never took a partner, preferring to work alone. From a distance, he managed to keep an eye on the Potters, to make sure they were well and away from the coming war. James and Lily eventually married, but they never had children. Sirius felt the ache deep in his soul that Harry was not born.
And then one day, ten years after Peter Pettigrew fell to his death in Hogwarts Castle, Sirius was taken by surprise by a group of Death-Eaters. He fought valiantly, but it was three against one, and he was subdued quickly. Sirius had had much to regret when the green flash of spell-light ended his life.
“Sirius Black, I am not amused!”
Once again, Sirius was in the totally black enclosure facing an agitated Lady Magic.
She looked different this time, younger and fresher, like a girl not yet in her twenties. He dress was different as well. Still black, this dress was high-necked and sleeveless with a long hem and a flowing train. It still sparkled with starlight, which matched the spark of fury in the Lady’s eyes.
Sirius cringed, knowing he screwed up again.
“What were you thinking?” she yelled at him.
Sirius shrugged. “Peter Pettigrew was a menace! I was prepared to let everything play out like it did when I first went to Hogwarts. But I started remembering some disturbing things about young Peter. Like his fascination with Alice Greenway. I followed a hunch and found him practicing the Imperio Curse in the library, and I just knew that he meant to use it on Alice if he ever figured it out. I just couldn’t let that happen.”
The Lady nodded in understanding. “Perhaps I sent you back at a too volatile time in your past. At that age, you were too concerned with fitting in without the pressure of your family.”
Sirius perked up. “You mean you can send me back again? I still have a chance?”
“Yes, Sirius,” said the Lady. “You still have a chance to make this right. But I caution you: make better choices! You are going back to save Harry from his hardships, not to rid the world of your enemies.”
Sirius offered a grim smile. “I’m not sure I can avoid that, you know. It was Peter that led the Dark Rat Bastard to James and Lily and got them killed. It was Peter that performed the ritual that brought the Voldemort back from phantom-hood. I just can’t look at him and see an innocent boy, especially now that I know he was going Dark way back then.”
The Lady scowled fiercely. “Dark or Light should not matter to you in this task, Sirius Black. Magic is always pure; so should your thoughts be. You are gifted by me to protect my Champion, but Time is not infinite. There is a limit to how many chances you may have in this task!”
“I know,” said Sirius. “At least, I think I know. I promise to try to only think about Harry. I didn’t have near enough time with him before, and I was gone just when we were starting to get to know each other again.”
Sirius bowed his head in contemplation. He missed James so much it hurt. Sirius’ family life was a nightmare, and James offered a full respite from that environment.
The Blacks were, pun unintended, as Dark as they came. They fully believed that the family motto, Toujours Pur, was a dig against muggle-borns and half-bloods rather than a plea to keep the Magic in the family untainted. His mother fully supported Voldemort and fairly forced his younger brother, Regulus, to become a Death-Eater. Actually, she wanted to completely disown Sirius from the family, but his grandfather forbade her from doing it.
Sirius was the only member of the family that actively went against Voldemort and Dark Magic. In the family history, only two members of the central Black family went against a Pureblood agenda: Sirius and his grandfather, Arcturus, who actively campaigned against Grindewald in the 1940s. When Sirius was sorted into Gryffindor instead of Slytherin, Sirius was frankly relieved. He knew, intellectually, that not all Slytherins were Dark, but the house was full of children of Death-Eaters and Voldemort-supporters, and Sirius wanted as far from that as he could get.
And when life got difficult at home, after Regulus committed himself to the Dark cause at the age of fourteen (with his mother’s blessing), Sirius couldn’t deal with his family anymore. He could have asked to live with his grandfather, but that would have meant moving to France and away from Hogwarts. Instead, Sirius ran from home and into the welcoming arms of the Potter family. Sirius and James declared each other blood-brothers and were close ever since.
And Sirius had had another chance at that, and ruined it by acting rashly—again.
But there was another chance to make things right. All Sirius had to do was keep a clear head and try to tolerate Peter Pettigrew despite what he knew.
Sirius nodded to himself, strengthening his resolve. He could do this. He could make things right and keep Harry safe so that the boy could grow to bring Magic back fully to the world.
And really, he never wanted to be scolded by the Lady of Magic ever again.
She was scarier than Minerva McGonagall ever was.