30th July 1993
Sirius spent the next five days lying in wait. He knew for a fact that by the end of the month, the human guards were scarce as they waited for the next month’s shift to come. Officially speaking, they were supposed to patrol the cellblocks regularly till midnight until the next shift came along. However, the reality was that nobody really wanted to be any closer to the dementors than was necessary. And so the time when there was a heavy human presence was at the beginning of the month when the guards weren’t altogether too sick of the place. By the end of the month, especially after the Minister of Magic made his annual visits, the guards would normally retire early as soon as the sun set, leaving the dementors to do their work of bringing food to the prisoners as well as patrolling the cellblocks.
As soon as the barred door leading to his cell opened revealing a dementor in all its sinister glory holding a tin plate of food, greatly resembling the grim reaper at a party searching for the buffet table, Sirius acted. Coiled muscles released energy as the black dog darted out around the dementor and raced down the corridor, taking advantage of the darkness created by the presence of the dementors.
Still on adrenaline, Sirius bounded up the staircase, recalling with perfect clarity the way out even after so many years.
Suddenly he skidded to a halt a few meters away from the front door as two of the human guards closed it behind them as they headed out to their quarters that was located a mile away from the fortress.
Cursing silently, he nevertheless walked in a circle, searching for the scent of sweet fresh air. Finding a trail, he dashed off in that direction.
Halfway through, he halted as he heard the sound of snoring. Creeping forward quietly, he found the warden sleeping at the desk of his office with the door ajar. Sirius shifted back to his human form and stepped forward to close the door. There was a high probability that a dementor would get in and possibly kiss the man in his sleep. Sirius personally did not have anything against the kindly old man as he was generally a civil fellow unlike most of the guards.
However, that did not stop him from filching the wand sticking out of the old man’s pocket nor did it prevent him from snagging the large sandwich at the man’s desk.
Stunning the man for good measure, Sirius wolfed down the sandwich and stepping outside, closed the door, locking it with a Colloportus for good measure. He was lucky that the wand was responding to him, albeit slightly reluctantly. Pocketing the wand and transforming back, he set off on his original quest.
His nose led him to the far wall where a semicircular opening was built into the area where the wall met the floor. The opening was too low for a human to crawl through and barred. But for a dog as thin as he ... the bars were just wide enough for him to squeeze through.
After a lot of wiggling, Sirius soon found himself outside the fortress on a cliff. There was an empty stretch of land that was barely big enough to fit him. Creeping closer to the edge, he looked down. From what he could see through his limited vision, it was a sheer drop down into the North Sea.
Taking a deep breath, both physically and mentally, the Animagus hurled himself off the cliff down to the black waters below, hoping that this won’t kill him.
The cold water was a shock to his system, winding him. But he rallied and through sheer determination fought his way to the surface. Once his head broke the surface, he wasted no time and started powering his way through the waves, using his canine instincts to guide him towards the mainland.
Sirius soldiered on with a grim determination, fighting the cold and exhaustion. Just as he felt as he could go no further, his paws hit solid ground. Working on another burst of adrenaline, he surged through the surf and onto the narrow beach, shivering. He only made it a few steps before he collapsed on the sand in exhaustion, as his muscles finally gave up, sleep wasn’t far behind as his world turned black.
He awoke late next morning to completely different surroundings. Confused and startled he let the canine instincts take over as he turned around and growled threateningly at the human he sensed approaching, his hackles raised.
‘Easy there, boy, easy,’ said the old man as he stayed where he was a good distance away from the dog holding a dish containing chunks of meat. The sight of the food bought Sirius back to his senses as he calmed down.
‘There’s a good fella,’ said the man as he slowly approached the dog in front of him. Sirius wagged his tail a bit and let out a quiet woof before attacking the food in front of him. Chuckling, the old man scratched Sirius’s head.
In the two days he spent there, Sirius found out from John, the old man who had found him passed out on the beach that he was now in Whitby, a Muggle town not too far off from the drop off point to Azkaban. He also found out that his disappearance had been almost immediately noticed when he saw his own face staring back at him in that contraption those Muggles loved to watch.
Deciding that it would be best to make himself scarce, he quietly apparated away in the dead of the night to London to his childhood home. As much as he loathed going there, he knew that number 12 Grimmauld Place was perfect because each brick of the old townhouse was saturated with wards.
Not bothering to enter the old house, he quickly shifted forms and silently streaked away into the night.
It took him a few days and a bit of searching, but he finally managed to get to Petunia’s house in Surrey. He wanted to check on his godson first before heading back up north towards Hogwarts.
As he was skulking close to the street where Petunia lived, he stopped suddenly when he heard footsteps approaching along with the sounds of something heavy being dragged. Hiding in the bushes, he was surprised to find what only could be his godson angrily dragging his heavy school trunk behind him. Sirius drank in Harry’s features as he slunk closer to the boy who was now slumped against a low wall. The dog in him could smell the anger along with a hint of fear that was slowly building. Although he was a bit on the painfully thin side, there was no doubt that the boy was James’s son. The resemblance was uncanny. It was almost as if he were looking back in time. Even the mannerisms displayed by the son, when he was rummaging in his trunk, were similar to the jerky movements that James displayed when he was angry.
Blinded by the sudden light coming out from the boy’s wand, Sirius instinctively stepped back at the same time the thirteen year old wizard stepped back in shock at finding a hulking beast of a dog staring back at him. Only the boy tripped over his open trunk accidentally summoning the Knight Bus.
Sirius watched, with his heart in his mouth, as the bus came within inches of running over his godson. Breathing a sigh of relief as the boy managed to scramble away in the nick of time, Sirius immediately slunk back into the shadows quietly padding away from the boy and the bus.
He could not afford to Apparate directly to Hogsmeade right now
as he did not know what security measures the Ministry had placed around the
village. And so he travelled as Padfoot, sticking as close as possible to the
train tracks leading towards Hogsmeade from Kings Cross, his only point of
reference as he had no idea what villages or towns came before the magical
village. Occasionally, he would sneak into the nearest town for food and some
news. Initially he would snoop around in human form at the dead of the night so
he could reach places the dog couldn’t. Unfortunately, that plan had to be scrapped when a Muggle had spotted and recognised him in a town very close to Hogsmeade. Running as quickly as he could, he got out of
sight and changed forms just as the first contingent of dementors descended on
the village. It was there that he found out Fudge’s Kiss-on-sight orders as
well as the fact that the entire faculty of Azkaban (dementors included) was very angry at him having escaped. Clearly the fear the guards had for him had transformed into hatred.
Once the dementors had left, along with the wizards and witches, he continued his journey. After nearly a month of travelling, he finally made it to Hogsmeade where he settled down at the Forbidden Forest, observing the goings on at the school.
His first attempt on capturing Pettigrew was on Halloween. He felt it fitting as it was the same day that his life had gone to hell, courtesy of Peter Pettigrew. Additionally, if things hadn’t changed at the school, and he knew they hadn’t, then everybody would be down in the Great Hall, stuffing themselves silly. The thought of all that food made his stomach churn and his head swim. The smell that assaulted his nose as he made his way to the Gryffindor Tower did not help matters. Perhaps, he could pretend to be a lovable stray and get some normal food? Anything would be better than the rats and other small mammals he had been hunting down and eating raw. It was a good thing that a dog’s taste buds were markedly different than a human’s otherwise he’d have died from starvation in Azkaban. The dog had no problems snapping up the odd rat or mouse that invariably found its way into the cell. Nor did it mind the food given to it by the guards.
He smoothly changed to human form, stumbling only slightly as he adjusted to the change in his gait. Rounding the deserted corridor, he took a moment to survey his surroundings. As he remembered it, the Fat Lady’s Portrait was hanging at the end of the corridor which was otherwise devoid of any other portraits.
Seeing that the Fat Lady’s back was turned as she was occupied with a mirror, he darted forward. Bringing up his wand, he unleashed a cutting curse, slashing the portrait before she had a chance to scream. Unfortunately, he was not quick enough for the Fat Lady had caught a glimpse of the curse headed towards her. Displaying reflexes not expected in a woman of her painted dimensions, she jumped out of the way at the very last moment, leaving her frame. Sirius could hear her screaming through the walls. Knowing he had little time, he tried to open the ruined portrait. Only to find out that the portrait, which normally swung open easily was practically stuck to the wall. Cursing, Sirius tried a couple of spells on the portrait, none of which worked. Obviously the person who had designed the entrances to the common rooms had foreseen forced entry and had specifically warded against it. Cursing, Sirius ran out of there as fast as he could. The feast would end soon and then getting out would be hard.
His first failed attempt had sapped a lot of energy. He was not used to running fast seeing as he had been spending twelve years in a small cell. His journey from London to Hogwarts really did not count as it had been accomplished when he was Padfoot. The dog had built up stamina and muscles from all that travelling, but that did not carry over into his human body which was still unused to the exertion. What was worse was that now the dog was tired. He now remembered that this was covered in the books they had perused when studying about Animagi. The full grasp of the theory escaped him, but the gist of it was that the state of the human body reflected the state of his animal form. This was one sided, so any injuries he suffered as a dog disappeared when he transformed while any injuries he suffered as a human were seen in the dog. The same held true for any benefits as well.
This was why none of the teachers suspected anything as they never did have any bite or scratch marks after their romps every full moon. This also meant that now, after his first transformation in weeks, since he was last spotted in that village, the dog which used to be thin was now skeletal. And while the stamina and speed of the dog was still greater than that of a human’s, it was still pretty low for a dog.
Cursing himself for this oversight, Sirius took to building up his strength using his human body. He would use magic to hunt down live game, recalling his skills from all the hunting trips his Uncle Arcturus and Mr Potter had taken him on when he was younger. Before his first attempt at catching Pettigrew, he was wary of using the wand that he had stolen. After all, its theft was definitely going to be noticed. He had no idea if the Ministry had developed a method to track the wand’s usage yet. Now, however, since every wizard and their kneazle knew that Sirius Black was near Hogwarts by now, and not somewhere else, he had no problems using the wand. And even if they could pin his location down, there was no way anybody was going to brave the legendary Forbidden Forest to catch him! Not when he was deep within the forest.
At the same time, he limited the usage of magic to just hunting, going so far as to light fires the Muggle way. There was no reason to tempt fate. As soon as he had some amount of stamina built up, he started hunting as a dog while eating as a human, forgoing the use of his wand altogether.
The only time he had even ventured near civilization was to get updates on the goings on at Hogwarts thanks to his new friend, who he decided to name Ginger. It was pretty sad that the only thing willing to listen to him and help him was a half kneazle-half cat. And that too one that looked like it had tried to bring a wall down with its face. Evidently, Persians and Kneazles were not meant to interbreed. The result wasn’t too appealing.
Of course, communicating with his little friend was pretty tedious. Sirius’s Animagus abilities did not gift him the ability to communicate with animals. So he was reduced to playing twenty questions with the cat. At least the kneazle genes gave the animal enough intelligence to understand Sirius. After all, no normal moggy would be able to understand the words ‘Bring me this rat’ properly when shown a newspaper clipping.
Not being able to resist the temptation, he ventured forth into the Quidditch Pitch to watch his godson play. The boy flew as well as his father. In fact, Sirius was sure that Harry would give James a run for his money. James would never be able to fly in such conditions. He would know.
He nearly got another heart attack when the dementors came swarming in and Harry fell off his broom. He heaved another sigh of relief when the teachers managed to slow the fall down. Otherwise, he was halfway towards shifting back.
He ran back into the forest as fast as he could. Idly he wondered if the Dementors had come to the pitch because they could sense him.
Sirius learnt later on that the broom Harry was using had been blown by the heavy winds into the Whomping Willow. Because of this, he thought to get his godson a gift. Initially, he was tempted to write to the boy, but he knew that it would not be a prudent thing to do. Harry had definitely been fed all those lies about Sirius’s supposed betrayal, and Sirius would not put it past him to alert the teachers who might spring a trap for him.
So he decided to get his godson a new racing broom. It was the least he could do.
Choosing a broom was easy enough. On the back of the newspaper clipping showing Peter’s picture was an article of the latest broom in production, the Firebolt. The broom was as fancy as its name, what with the features described in the article. What was more, its price of nearly five hundred thousand Galleons meant that it would be another five years or so till the broom’s price depreciated enough for the average witch or wizard to be able to afford one. That would mean that Harry would be the only individual who wasn’t in a professional Quidditch team to own one. It was definitely the perfect gift to get his godson.
After some thinking, Sirius wrote out a letter on some stationary he had Ginger steal from the school.
Dear Quality Quidditch Supplies,
Recently I was involved in a Quidditch accident, because of which, my broom was destroyed. And so I write this letter to you with the intent of purchasing a new broom for myself.
Initially, I wanted to buy another broom of the same make as I dearly liked the quality of the broom. Then I remembered that the Firebolt has come out. After some additional research, I feel that this broom would be the best for me.
And so, I would like to purchase a Firebolt from your fine store. That is, if you have it in stock. Money, obviously, is no object. Would you be kind enough to charge the cost of the broom to vault 711?
Folding the note, Sirius gave the letter to Ginger and told him to send it off to the Owl Office. He figured that nobody would really know, or care, that Harry Potter did not own vault 711, nor would they care that the letter was rather verbose for a thirteen year old. The fact that the teenage celebrity had ordered the most expensive item in Quality Quidditch Supplies would be enough to give the owner an orgasm and make him see Galleon figures dancing in front of him all the way till Christmas.
The price wasn’t much of a problem for Sirius as his Uncle Alphard had left quite a decent sum of money for him to use.
The next morning, he got quite a shock when he found an owl in front of him. Opening the letter, a momentary chill went up his spine when he saw who it was from.
Dear Mr Black,
This letter is to confirm your approval of a bank transfer of 484,962Γ, 10Σ and 5Κ to the vault owned by the establishment “Quality Quidditch Supplies”. Please sign on the dotted line to approve this transfer. A notification shall be sent immediately to Mr Oldham, the proprietor, upon doing so.
Sirius gulped and read the second sheet of parchment included in the envelope.
Your attempt at using a different name, while brilliant (Sirius could almost feel the sarcasm coming out from that word) was ultimately foiled as I recognise your ... distinctive handwriting when the letter was forwarded to my desk, seeing as I am the manager of your accounts. You should be thankful that the Ministry does not deem it necessary to watch your vaults (as if they could ever come close to the bank to do so) and that the Goblins do not view you as a convict as you haven’t got a warrant against your name, or for that matter, a conviction.
Also please do inform me when you plan on coming over and claiming the headship of the Black Family.
Well there was a bit of good news Sirius thought, laughing in relief. He nearly thought his location had been discovered when he first saw the letter.
Just to be sure, Sirius Apparated himself and the owl to a secluded spot he remembered in Edinburgh. After signing the letter, he attached it to the now disgruntled owl that flew off after cuffing him on the head with its wings as it left. Not wasting time, Sirius quickly Apparated back to his spot in the Forest before shifting forms and loping away.