Fandom: Harry Potter
Spoilers: Through OotP.
Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me.
Summary: “You’re dead,” the man says with some confusion. “Surely you knew that.”
Feedback: Anything, really. Heck, I'll even take the flames.
Notes: Betaed by the sehr awesome librae and tatooine. Afterlife!fic named after the Sigur Ros album that was the awesomest soundtrack for this fic, ever.
Sirius wakes up in a strange bed, in a strange room, in a strange house. His feet aren’t tangled up in the sheets like they have been every morning since Azkaban, and he wonders if he’s had the first night of restful sleep in a long time. His memories are vague, and the whole picture keeps slipping. He's just left with the details.
Bellatrix’s laugh. Much different from the last time he heard it in Azkaban. More sane, but not by much.
Harry fighting, looking desperate. A feeling of pride at the sight of Harry’s determination.
The feel of Remus’s hand on his arm. Familiar and warm.
The Veil, flapping in an imaginary wind.
He can’t find his wand. It isn’t in his robes, and he feels a bit naked without it. A glance around the room doesn't reveal it either.
The room is Spartan. A bed, a desk, a lamp, all white. The shades are pulled closed, and the lamp is switched on, casting a warm, yellow light on the white carpet. Sirius walks over to the window, dreading what he will see when he pulls the curtains back. The world crumbling into ruins, perhaps, while he’s locked away in this room, unable to help.
Surprisingly (and eerily enough), there’s nothing. A clouded, gray sky over an empty street. No sound, no movement. The silence crawls under Sirius’s skin and unnerves him. Nowhere in the world is this quiet.
He finds the bathroom. It’s white as well. The porcelain sink and bath gleam in the harsh, florescent light. They look new. When Sirius opens the medicine cabinet, he finds nothing inside.
Downstairs, the kitchen is also bare. There are various Muggle and wizard appliances, but the refrigerator is empty, and the oven looks like it’s never been used. He runs his fingers over it, trying to pick up traces of dust or dirt. There are none.
The rest of the house is the same. Clean and white. Sirius doesn't think he can stay. It's too eerie, too quiet. He's thrived on noise all his life he can't stop now.
Remus grabs him by the front of his robes and drags him back.
What do you think you’re doing?
I’m going to save my godson.
Remus frowns at this. You could be seen. Are you going to risk that for him?
Yes. I’m no good to him if he’s dead.
There’s plenty of us go—
I won’t be left behind.
On the street, there’s no indication of where to go. A certain blank conformity clings to all the houses. They’re white (of course. Sirius is beginning to pick up a theme here), with black roofs and neat garages that don’t even have a speck of dust inside (Sirius has checked).
There's nothing to do besides choose a direction and starts walking. There are a few intersections, but no street signs, and only more rows of houses. He reaches something that may or may not be a main street. None of the houses face into it, and it seems wider than the others.
Sirius sees a man walking down the street toward him. He’s not very tall, with black hair and long, dark robes. When he comes closer, Sirius gets a good look at his face, but doesn’t recognize him.
“Hello,” Sirius calls out. He thinks he can hear it echo.
The other man comes closer, and when they’re at a good, conversational distance, he studies Sirius for a few seconds, before answering. “Blimey, you’re Sirius Black, aren’t you?”
Sirius isn’t sure how to respond, so he just nods his head.
“Well, I should be glad you’re here and not out on the streets terrorizing that young Harry Potter.” Strangely enough, the man seems positively cheerful.
Sirius tries to tell him that terrorizing Harry is last thing he would want to do and that he (at the moment) is on the streets, but the man speaks again, “Well, better get on my way then.” He continues walking down the long street.
“Where am I?” Sirius blurts out before the man leaves.
“You’re dead,” the man says with some confusion. “Surely you knew that.”
Bellatrix’s wand. Falling back, back, back into a flapping curtain.
Oh, Sirius thinks. He probably should have figured that one out himself, with the weirdness and all of that.
Sirius merely shakes his head. “What is this place, then?”
The man just smiles. “I’m not sure, but I feel like I should continue walking in this,” he points, “direction.”
“Do you know where it leads to?”
“No, but I’ve got all the time in the world. There’s no need to rush.”
Sirius just nods. All the time in the world.
He gives Sirius another look. “Best be going, now.”
Before the man walks off completely, he turns back to face Sirius. “By the way, you seem incredibly sane for being, you know, who you are.”
Hiding a convicted, insane criminal, are we?
Remus’s laugh is gentle in that professor-ly way that Sirius finds comforting. Older and wiser than it used to be, but comforting all the same. Well, he did offer me sexual favors. I couldn’t just turn him down.
You’re just using me for the sex.
What else would I use you for?
Sirius can’t hide the hurt look that passes over his face. Remus picks up on it immediately.
I’m sorry. I know you want to help.
S'okay. I’m not really good for doing anything besides cleaning and fucking, anyway. Sirius is bitter, and he’s incredibly bad at hiding it, especially when it comes to Remus, who knows him inside and out.
I didn’t mean it.
Yes, you did.
Remus just shakes his head and pulls away.
A tug pulls him further down the road. He walks and walks and walks, never getting a sense of exactly how many houses he’s just passed or what he’s walking toward. The cloudy sky never lightens or darkens.
He thinks he sees something in the distance, though it might be a trick of the light. Sirius speeds up a bit, and it becomes clearer. It looks like a station. He thinks he can make out some movement, but it’s still too indistinct to make out.
As he gets closer, he notices that some people are milling about and others are coming in from different roads. He tries to recognize someone, anyone, but the faces are all unfamiliar.
That is, until he gets inside.
Remus holds the door open for a large, black dog. Come in, he says.
When Sirius is once again upright, he gives Remus a tight hug. Voldemort’s back. Dumbledore sent me.
Remus nods. I heard about the Tri-Wizard Tournament. What happened?
He took Harry. Sirius can barely contain his rage. He took Harry and he came back.
Remus nods again, his face serious. This doesn’t look good, he says.
It never did, Sirius replies before pulling him into a kiss.
The station is much larger than it seemed from the outside, and it resembles King’s Cross. Almost nobody is carrying luggage, and Sirius doesn't feel as unprepared.
He finds James in the waiting room napping. Sirius reaches out and gently shakes him. James wakes with a start and blinks.
“’Lo, Sirius,” he says, “here already?”
“Yeah. We only arrived a few days ago.” James looks perplexed. “I hope you didn’t do anything extraordinarily stupid to end up here.”
Sirius quickly shakes his head. “Fourteen years, and all you have to offer is a ‘Gee, Sirius, you’re dumb and reckless’?”
James doesn’t respond and looks down at his hands. They’re smooth and young, not ravaged by time the way Sirius’s are (were), the way Remus’s are. Sirius feels a flash of jealousy and anger. You weren’t there. You have no right to judge me. He hates that James' appearance hasn't changed, that he can't go back, even with James there, not aged a day.
But it’s too much just to have a chance to talk to James, after everything. He can't hate him, never could. Close as brothers. Marauders forever. The words crowd his throat, though, and he remains silent. It’s just enough to be here, to see him. They sit in silence.
“Where’s Lily?” Sirius finally manages.
James looks confused for a second, as if he’s trying to remember. “She said she had to go to the toilets. I could have sworn that was only a few minutes ago.”
He frowns, trying to collect his thoughts.
Almost as if they conjured her, Lily shows up. “I’m sorry,” she says. “There was a dreadful line.”
James gives her a radiant smile, and pulls her in close.
“How’s Harry?” James asks.
There’s an undeniable ache that Sirius feels when he responds. “He’s doing well, better than expected. He has friends, he has Dumbledore, he has Remus. He still misses you though.”
There’s a quiet look of sadness between James and Lily. “I wish we could tell him that we miss him, too.”
Sirius smiles. There's a sad edge to it. “I think he knows.”
They nod, and he can't help but remember what it felt like to have someone like that.
Remus shakes his head. This isn’t going to work, he tells Sirius.
What isn’t going to work? The prank? Sirius has all his attention focused on the map, and vaguely wonders what kind of problem Moony got himself into this time.
This, Remus says. Whatever the hell this is.
Why isn’t it?
It’s not enough. I just can’t pretend that this is just some schoolboy thing that we’ll look back on and laugh later.
Sirius sits back for a second. Is this about the map? he asks.
No, it’s not about the map. Remus sighs. It’s about us.
What’s wrong with us?
Look, if you don't get it, you never will.
Fine, we’ll talk about it later.
“We were waiting for you,” James says. He looks somber and relieved. “We didn’t know how long it would take.”
Sirius just nods. What could he possibly say to that?
“Are you going to come? The train's here for us,” Lily says it gently, her voice filled with concern.
He shakes his head. “I can’t. I have to wait for Remus.”
Lily pats his arm. “Do you want us to stay? We can if you want.”
Sirius gives them his best I-don’t-like-it-but-go-ahead-because-you-d
James throws him a strange look. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
They give him hugs before they leave, tight and loving. Sirius is tempted to go with them, but he has to wait. They really do deserve to rest. The fight is Harry's now, whether anyone likes it or not.
They do leave, though, and Sirius does get some comfort out of it. They’re together, and they’re happy. There's an ache where Sirius used to have someone like that.
You’re Sirius Black, aren’t you?
Sirius is getting somewhat sick of this question. Yes, I am. No, I really didn't want to end up in this house. Yes, my parents are going to kill me when I get home. Does that answer your question?
Err, I just wanted to know if it was OK if I took this bed, since you seem somewhat attached to it, but all of that other stuff is useful.
I’m Remus Lupin, by the way. It’s nice to meet you.
Sirius sits down and begins to wait. He doesn’t look for a clock.