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Answer to (and dedicated to) Persephone Lupin's little challenge: Sirius had to be paired with Filch. And Azkaban should be the more beckoning prospect than knowing Snape was with Remus and had taken custody of Harry. 5. Seriously Sick Life could always go downhill in a matter of seconds. This wisdom was not only Draco Malfoy's; Sirius Black could say so, as well. One day, his life was the normal everyday routine and "Bang," out of the blue, he saw himself sentenced to a life penance in Azkaban for a crime he hadn't even committed. Formally, his life had consisted of flirting with everything that moved (and couldn't escape fast enough) and playing pranks on the greasy git. After the twelve years of forced solitude (alas, not leaving him the most sought after bachelor alive), Sirius had to experience the coldest bucket of ice water as a wake-up call ever. Today, he didn't even know what the meaning of 'flirting' was, anymore ("It's just like bicycling? Pah!"), and he was convinced that the greasy git had turned the tables and played an evil prank on him. Not only had he warped Remus', whom Sirius knew like himself, mind, but the slimy Potions master also dared to take custody of his own godson! Sirius was certain that after he had broken out of Azkaban, he had ended in some kind of alternate reality; how could there be any other explanation for the fact that Harry was in love with Draco Malfoy and Remus was together with Severus Snape of all people? It was just so wrong. Nobody should be allowed to fall for Snivellus! Sirius banged his head repeatedly on the table. The sound echoed in the large kitchen of Black Manor, but no one was with him to witness it. It was just so unfair. He was the good-looking chap, after all, well, had been ... but there were still traces left and with some imagination ...! Merlin, he was pathetic. Whining over the fact that he didn't get any but Snape did. How deep could one sink? Sirius couldn't possibly get any lower. He threaded his fingers through his long hair, groaning. Life just sucked; from his point of view, at least. Poor Remy in the fangs of Evil Incarnate and his beloved, innocent godson seduced by the Spawn of the Devil? It was more than Sirius could bear. Yes, he could indeed sink lower. --- Padding away on silent paws, Sirius made his way through the Forbidden Forest in his Animagus form. The leaves on the ground were soft and wet, stifling potential sounds. Snuffles sniffed the air, not detecting any kind of hazardous animals, and scanned his environment for possible danger lurking around in the shadows. Deeming the forest relatively safe for once, the black dog trudged on, heading for Hogwarts. If he could, Sirius would have whistled the melody of Mission Impossible. Ah, what a thrill, all the adrenaline! He felt like the Muggle spy 007 on his way to save his loved ones from the heavily guarded castle of doom. Snuffles barked a laugh; he was a dog on a mission. Sirius padded the last metres across the front lawn, up the stairs, and nudged the doors open. He knew he had to be careful; no one could say how many of the students knew of Sirius Black's Animagus form and would sell him out to the Ministry. Ten thousand Galleons reward (dead or alive) was quite a bit of cash; he was not the most sought after bachelor of the country, but ... Sirius sighed and shook his hairy head, causing his flabby cheeks to flap around his muzzles. It was an enigma for him. How anyone could find Snape more desirable than him, he couldn't fathom it. Snuffles headed for Harry's quarters at first. He had to talk some sense back into him. And if that didn't work, he'd have to talk (he coughed) some sense into Snape. Snuffles nodded to himself, ears flapping, drool dropping, fleas bouncing. Silently, Snuffles trudged on, hoping to avoid Mrs. Norris. 'How can a cat have lamp-like eyes?' he thought fleetingly. 'An experiment gone wrong?' That would be awful, a pity, a shame. Filch adored Mrs. Norris, though, he wasn't embarrassed about her. Snuffles stopped shortly to tilt his head and lick his privates. There was nothing to be embarrassed about. As he arrived at the entrance to the Gryffindor Tower, Sirius literally barked out the password, startling the Fat Lady awake. She blinked sleepily, then gasped as she recognized the dog morphing into a man, who had already visited her once before. She knew now, of course, that the man wasn't a crazed murderer; all of Hogwarts' paintings knew. "Sirius Black," she whispered breathlessly, fanning herself with both hands. "What brings you here at this late hour? Business or," (maybe Sirius only imagined her winking at him,) "pleasure?" Well, at least he hadn't lost all of his touch when he still could turn on an ancient painting. God, he was a lost cause. Even Snape- 'No!' he thought firmly. 'I'm not getting into that again.' "I need to speak with Harry," Sirius said, trying to use his old charm and ignoring the pathetic feeling he got from it. "Would you let me into the common room, dear lady?" The Fat Lady giggled, making Sirius wince. "He's your godson, isn't he?" "Yes, he is. May I see him now? It's urgent, and I don't think it's so smart to stay much longer here in the hallway, where everyone could easily spot me." The Fat Lady smoothed out her pink dress, not at all in a hurry. "You know, you should have said so the first time you came here. Really, acting like a savage beast and ripping apart my whole frame," she said in a huff and gave a teasing smile. "There are other places where a savage beast would be more appropriate." Sirius gulped and tried to grin. If the prospects were needy little paintings, he didn't want to be a lady-killer anymore. "Yes," he said slowly. "I'm sure there are some kind of zoos or cages were savage beasts could be put away. Anyways, Harry, my godson, remember? I need to see him. Would you let me in?" "Oh," the painting pouted. "Why are you so hurried? Don't you want to chat away with me a bit longer?" God, no! "I'd love to," Sirius lied through clenched teeth, "but it's important and maybe even a life depends on it!" Well, it was true. His life and peace of mind did depend on it. "Oooh," said the Fat Lady with wide eyes. "I see. Poor Harry. What is it this time? Just two days ago, Violet and I were talking about how the lad's always in danger and-" "He's a magnet for everything evil, yes. Trouble is just drawn to him like the proverbial moth to the light," Sirius interrupted. "And this time, it's even worse. I have to rescue him from himself! He could be in peril this very moment!" Not that he believed that. Harry might sometimes take action before consulting his brain first, but all in all, the boy knew what he could do and what not. The Fat Lady gasped aloud. "But ... no! I didn't let anyone in who isn't supposed to be there! Impossible!" She folded her arms indignantly. "I'm a good guarding painting, you know." "Oh, I believe you," Sirius assured her with a nod. "But the one who threatens Harry has ways and means to escape your notice. I fear, Harry himself might have smuggled him in." "Merlin ..." "Well, are you now going to let me in?" he asked urgently. "I don't know," the Fat Lady said uncertainly. "I'm not supposed to let anyone in ..." "But it's important!" Sirius cried, then stilled suddenly and slapped his forehead. Man, he was a nutcase. Here he was, debating with a painting to let him enter, when Harry mentioned the password in his last letter (where he also fleetingly revealed the relationships he and Remus had). "Sugar Mama!" The Fat Lady blushed furiously, the colour clashing badly with her dress. "Why, so straightforward, dear?" She giggled and fanned herself again. Sirius frowned, then gasped and grimaced. "The password! 'Sugar Mama'! I didn't mean- I mean- Just open the bloody door already!" he snapped, now that he didn't have to flirt anymore. God, he should have remembered the password earlier and saved himself some terrible nightmares. First his Harry and Malfoy, then Remus and Snape and now horny paintings making moves on him? Slowly, Azkaban was beginning to seem like some very nice place to stay. The Fat Lady huffed at the rudeness, threatened to tell the headmaster, but swung open, anyways. Sirius didn't want to waste any more seconds, and he hurriedly made his way to the third year boys' dormitory. He remembered the time when he himself had slept in the dorm with his friends. James (he sighed sadly), Peter (he balled his fists angrily) and Remus (he whimpered piteously). How everything had changed during the years of his absence; some things, however, never changed. Sirius padded the stairs along to the door, trying to stay as silent as possible. He was on edge; his mission was in a critical stage. Before he opened the door, he took one last deep breath. He needed to be calm; shouting at Harry would be as efficient as it would have been with him, back in the days when he had had lovers ... Oh, the good old days. He was pathetic. Was he getting depressive to boot? Sirius shook off those unimportant thoughts and pushed open the door. Thunderous snoring greeted him from various four-posters, shaking him nearly to his core with the jigsaw cacophony. Sirius was grateful he couldn't hear nearly as well as in his Animagus form; he'd go deaf within seconds! James and Peter hadn't been nearly as loud (well, they complained he was a snorer, but ...) for which he was deeply thankful, as well. Sirius headed over to where he believed Harry's bed was (no sounds were coming from the closed curtains). He crept nearer, not wanting to scare Harry who had a very light sleep he knew. As Sirius drew the curtains open, however, he froze to the spot. Harry, it seemed, was not alone. Sirius fisted his hands again, unsure what he wanted to do. Throttle Malfoy, drag Harry away from the other boy, or pull out his hair in frustration? Too many options; too little time! Harry lay spooned behind the blond (both thankfully clothed), embracing Malfoy gently, yet at the same time possessively. The dark-haired boy's lips conveyed a peaceful smile, causing Sirius to gulp. What was that feeling in his chest, the flutter of his heart? He had never seen Harry so at peace with the world and himself; least of all, holding Draco Malfoy! Sirius startled. Where did that thought come from? No! He hit his head with the palm of his hand and whispered furiously, "Out! Stop! That can't be happening! They are not ... cute!" Something was wrong, messing around with his head. He had to get out of here and quickly! Sirius took a step back, then another, not able to rip his gaze form the serenely slumbering couple. Only as he hit the doorframe did Sirius turn around in a flash and flee the Gryffindor Tower, ignoring the Fat Lady's angry, whispered shouts. Sirius fled and ran as fast as his feet would take him in the only direction that made sense to him in this very instant; Snape's dungeon chambers. Maybe he should have suspected something, but the uneasy feeling was squished by the overwhelming urge to give the greasy git a piece of his mind regarding the matter of letting Slytherins on the loose on poor, innocent Harry. He'd wish he had never been born (which he probably did anyway), after Sirius was finished with him. He should have known better. The horror had the horrific ability to catch him off-guard, every single bloody time. Fate had still something up her sleeve for him. When Sirius arrived at Snape's chambers (which had been the rooms of their former Potions master, whom the Marauders played pranks on occasionally, as well), the ex-con was boiling with anger at the greasy git, whom he deemed responsible for everything that had gone wrong lately. How dare he soil his pure friends and family, and even have the audacity to warp his mind into believing Harry and Malfoy made a sweet couple? Oh, wait! If Sirius were to kill Snape with an Avada Kedavra, he couldn't possibly get into deeper trouble than he already was, right? He was a criminal on the run, after all, murdering people was practically expected from an escaped killer! But no, Albus wouldn't be all that thrilled and Remus ... Sirius refused categorically to even consider Remus' reaction to his loss. Sirius drew his wand and tried to open the door. "Alohomora!" didn't work; who could have guessed? Sirius sniffed and cracked his knuckles in determination. He would break the security spells Snape had cast to keep unwanted intruders (like himself) out of his chambers. It took him the better half of an hour, though his anger hadn't fumed out in the least. If anything, his ire had grown due to the fact that he had wasted precious time he could have used talking to Snape. He already knew a few words as well as a couple of sentences. Sirius pushed open the heavy door, not caring in the least if the bang woke up the greasy git. Please; as if the beauty sleep could actually help any! Not even the best surgeon would be able to do something. However, even with these Major (his nose alone earned a capital M) handicaps, Snape was getting some, whereas: He. Did. Not! Sirius sniffled. Had he already mentioned he was pathe- He stilled in mid-thought at a strange noise. Something sounding suspiciously like mewling or whimpering. Then, it suddenly stopped, leaving Sirius puzzled. The air was silent around him; nothing but his own breathing could be heard. He took a step forwards and stilled again as the sound was back, louder this time and somewhat clearer. Sirius perked up his ears, listening carefully, trying to identify it. Then, his eyes grew almost impossibly wide, his hand flying up to cover his mouth. He wouldn't, no, he couldn't bring himself to try and understand what those words meant that were cried out in unmistakably impassioned moments; least of all what Remus (poor little innocent Remy!) screamed at the top of his lungs- Sirius cut the thought abruptly, stumbling blindly out of the room he never wanted to think about let alone step into again. By Regina's nail polish, he would never be able to look into Remus' eyes again without thinking ... envisioning ... He was grateful it was merely a mental picture he had to carry around with himself ... for the rest of his life. "For the rest," Sirius mumbled, "of my life ..." He couldn't help the sudden longing for a rope, preferably around his neck. It was pathetic, indeed, but life sucked, as everyone should know by now. Thinking of ropes always led to thinking of Filch, as well. The man was rumoured to own more torture devices in his office than the Spanish Inquisition had had back then, and Sirius knew it was true. Also, Filch had quite a stack of liquor hidden somewhere in his office. Sirius sighed deeply. If he couldn't take his life with the help of one of Filch's devices, he could at least drown his consternation in something stronger than Hagrid's home-brews. Sirius nodded and headed quickly for Filch's office, his mind already preparing itself for the awaited pleasure. Little did he know ... But on the other hand, who could have possibly guessed besides Trelawney? Right. Sirius walked briskly but silently, once narrowly avoiding an encounter with Peeves the Poltergeist. He was haunted enough already as it was, he didn't need a ghost to rub his nose in it (Sirius had the uncanny suspicion that Peeves got most of his insider information from the gossiping paintings, and as chance had it, opposite of Snape's quarters was a frame containing a wolf in sheep's clothing playing a game of chess with his mirror image.) for all it was worth. Outwardly, Filch's office hadn't really changed in the last ten years; the same old padlock was supposed to keep people (especially nosy, foolish Gryffindor students) out. Pity that the janitor was a Squib, after he'd broken Snape's wards, Sirius felt very confident with his pushed ego. A simple hair needle did the trick (he blew the irritating lock of hair back), and the tortured soul, AKA Sirius Black, pushed open the door and entered. His search for mind-numbing alcohol was cut short abruptly, as everything else that had happened on his mission today. He would probably begin to see a pattern, if it weren't for the fact that his mind was already numb without the alcohol. Did the revelations never stop? All he wanted was getting drunk and stay so for an indefinite amount of time. Was that too much to ask? Sirius whimpered and then gasped sharply as the door fell shut. He whirled around, seizing the handle, and pulled and yanked frantically, to no avail. The door didn't budge one bit. He drew his wand and tried a few unlocking charms, but nothing worked. It seemed as if one couldn't perform magic in this room; that was new! He was trapped! In a room full of ... Sirius gulped and turned around again, bracing himself for the sight he knew would greet him. It was like an altar, a sacred room with candles burning, magical pictures winking at him ... There were pink hearts on the walls, blemishing the ancient wallpapers, the air smelled of oysters ("An aphrodisiac?") and mirrors commented on his looks. It was a worshiping ground. Dedicated to him. Sirius felt close to tears; lunatics surrounded him and there was no way of escape! Sirius was already near a total nervous breakdown before he heard the click of the lock, sending the dread in his veins ricocheting into unknown heights. Filch was there, going to control his spidery net that had captured Sirius. The Animagus gulped and tried to appear smaller. "I want back to my Mommy!" would have sounded terribly immature. However, the words that did escape his mouth at last, weren't that more sophisticated, either. "I want back to Azkaban!" Horrors didn't find an early end, but Sirius didn't stop screaming for Merlin (who turned a blind eye) to help him. Suffice it to say, nobody came for his rescue. -End-

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